Some abuse victims caught in nuisance law trap Abuse victims caught in nuisance law

Some abuse victims caught in nuisance law trap
Abuse victims caught in nuisance law
He put his hands on her throat, and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe. He had a gun, and a history of domestic violence against her.
All this is in the crime report.
But the gun that police found on Javonnta Simmons’ boyfriend that February day — he allegedly intended to pistol whip her — led the city of Rochester to assess nuisance points against the Genesee Street apartment building where she lived. And that, Simmons alleges in a lawsuit, forced her to move.
“I was more shocked than anything,” the 28-year-old said of being told by her landlord that she and her 4-month-old daughter had less than 30 days to get out. “I didn’t understand.”
The merits of Simmons’ lawsuit against the city will be sorted out in court. But the issue of nuisance laws being applied in domestic violence cases is one seen nationally, experts say, and an increasing problem in New York state.
It is an unintended consequence of laws that evolved from an effort to weed out drug dens and became a way to combat problem properties. The laws assign penalties based on the number of police calls or the number of disturbances. Rochester assigns points based on the seriousness of the incident. But most violence in the home is domestic, and critics say victims can neither avoid nor resolve without the help of law enforcement.
“We try and convince them that all these laws do is move a problem from one location to another. It doesn’t solve the problem,” said David Ahl, board member of the state Coalition of Property Owners and Businesses. “What people complain the most about is ‘you are discouraging me from calling police.’ ”
A Monroe County law prohibits a landlord from evicting a victim of domestic or dating violence. Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for similar protection in his 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda. However, there is no stated exception in Rochester city codes for incidents involving domestic violence. The city insists it is not trying to close properties or evict tenants — especially not victims of violence

However, said Amy Schwartz, senior staff attorney with the Empire Justice Center and head of a statewide domestic violence task force, “We are seeing more victims wrapped up into nuisance ordinances.”
And while exceptions have been carved out at the federal level and by some major cities, she said, “those protections have not trickled down into the private housing market.”
In 2010, East Rochester paid $100,000 to settle a pair of lawsuits brought by domestic violence victims who stopped calling police for fear of eviction. In both cases, the village allegedly notified their landlords that, under an ordinance allowing the municipality to revoke dwelling permits of rental properties where police were called for disturbances three times in one year.
“A lot of small towns have been going this route,” Ahl said. “And they are quite honest about what they are trying to do, which is get these people (who are causing problems) to move out of their town.”
But the next town over is doing the same thing.
Even when the law is applied with the intended consequence, Ahl questions the effectiveness. Two coalition members have been shot trying to evict drug dealers from their properties, he said. In another case, the suspect moved two doors down.
In the Rochester case, the weapons violation is the only issue recorded by code enforcement. Police show six police responses to the property in six months, but four calls relate to two incidents — one being the Simmons case — a fifth is an attempt to serve a warrant, and the sixth is a domestic call to another apartment.
Simmons said she was given less than 30 days to move, or be evicted, and was warned by her landlord that choosing the latter would make it harder to find another place. She said she also was told the apartment building could be shut down.
Abusers often have limited their victim’s financial resources and isolated them, experts say, making it difficult to move. Compounding the problem: Landlords can be reluctant to accept domestic violence victims for fear the same trouble will follow that is beyond their (or the tenant’s) control.

Under city code, firearms offenses carry half the nuisance points that need be accumulated in a year to close down and vacate a property. Points are assessed automatically. There is no appeal when guns are involved.
But David Hawkes, the Neighborhood Service Center coordinator for the southwest, said the city talks with the landlord and seeks to partner with them to improve the situation, but it does not tell landlords to evict.
In this case, Hawkes said, the landlord had a clean record. Simmons said she was told by the property manager that they had experience with this process and they had no choice.
Simmons’ lawsuit argues the city lacked any procedure to protect victims of violence or notify them of their rights. The city does have paperwork in the Neighborhood Service Center office but tenants must seek out assistance, Hawkes said: “It is not the city’s obligation to tell (them) about tenant rights.” And how was the city to know the action the landlord allegedly took?
“The city had nothing to do with her eviction,” said city spokesman Gary Walker.
Simmons said she suspected something wasn’t right but had little time to question matters. She recalls being “an emotional wreck. I didn’t know what to do, what to say.”
So she packed up, bounced around for awhile and eventually settled across town — a move that took her away from family and the neighborhood in which she grew up.
“It was hurtful,” Simmons said. “It was painful because I was a really good tenant. I paid my rent on time, never had any issues. I never had anyone complain about me. ... I couldn’t really understand why that was happening to me.”
Simmons’ lawsuit seeks to change the law, and also asks for unspecified damages.

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But David Hawkes, the Neighborhood Service Center coordinator for the southwest, said the city talks with the landlord and seeks to partner with them to improve the situation, but it does not tell landlords to evict.(No, the City doesn't say the words "Evict them", but they leave it cyrstal clear that's what they expect you to do.  They say... "We're not telling you to evict them, but if there's another problem at this address, we will hammer you with more points and board your house up.  So you decide if you want to risk that.")
The city had nothing to do with her eviction,” said city spokesman Gary Walker. That is a complete lie from a professional liar.  The City has EVERYTHING to do with the eviction.  No doubt the landlord evicted her because of the points and the clear threat of board-up and loss of his property if he failed to "partner with the City" and "listen to the City's recommendations". 
I have been to enough of these "Points Meetings" to know what happens and what is said.  The 100% expectation conveyed by the City is that the landlord MUST evict the tenant or face the City's powerful punishment mechanisms.

I personally have never been to a points meeting.  I have heard horror stories and the heavy handedness used.  It is very difficult to evict tenants.  Judges are pro tenant in Rochester.  I am a firm believer that houses do not commit crimes, people do.  Until the city holds those that do the crime, do the time,  things will always remain the same.  In a recent meeting with the police chief he warned the houseing providers to not confront those hanging out on your property.  "You may get shot."  Is losing your life worth not getting points?  

Also, I have been a housing provider for 30+ years.  NSC administrators do not always return calls. The people who hold these points meetings won't leave their comfy offices and even come down to the location where the alledged problems are and they  don't own rentals but feel they are experts in their advise on telling us how to run the rental business.  Its very simple!  Put the criminals in Jail!!! 

Mary,  What this neighborhood needs are a hundred more activists like you. Not to take anything away from the ones who have been here and fighting for a very long time. Sometimes you just get burned out. I sincerely hope you don't lose your enthusiasm..keep it up! Can't wait to see what Plymouth Ave. looks like in 5 years.

Oh my goodness! I have been so busy getting my house ready to sell and having so much fun working on colors and furniture placement at my new house on Plymouth Ave.that I haven't responded. Thank you for your kind words. I can't wait to see what Plymouth Ave looks like this summer. The other day, when it was warm out, there were people walking their dogs, jogging, riding bikes etc. and no drug dealers on the corner of Plymouth and Jefferson. Residents are coming into the Deli and keep coming back. They thank us and ask us not to leave. Last week I posted on face book a kindness that occurred at the deli but forgot to post on Loc 19.

A resident came into the Deli as she does three or four times a week. It is difficult for her to get around but she always makes it in. Anthony asked her what he could help her with and she said nothing. She opened her pocket book and took out $20 and put it in the tip cup and said, "I have wanted to do this for a long time. You people are so nice to us, you work so hard, please don't leave our community." Anthony humbly explained to her that she didn't have to do that and was so thankful for her thoughtfulness ( not the money ) that he insisted she take all the cookies. It made our day to be so welcomed by the elderly residents. I just love them. When they come in, I like to sit with them and listen to their stories. Of course when they leave, Anthony says, "hey how about helping me make sandwhiches, and less talking." So many people come in and thank us for coming, it has been a wonderful experience for us and they have added so much to my life. I do have many questions as to why the Plymouth area was abandoned by the city? Why was Plymouth able to be cleaned up without the help of the city in less than two years? The residents in the area deserved better than what they have received. I am thankful there are no more drug dealers hanging on the corner of Plymouth and Jefferson.
Accountability needs to be a word that residents begin to hold the city too. The city NSC likes to hammer the residents but who is watching and policing the NSC?????? The New York State Coalition of Property Owners & Businesses met with Dana Miller concerning some city policies that discourage local investors from investing in Rochester and I was very impressed with his responses and his preparedness for the meeting.

I know many of our young silver haired residents are concerned about not being able to stay in their homes because increased property values = increased taxes. Dana has assured me this will not happen. It cannot happen because our older residents are the communities backbone and heritage. We will fight hard for our residents.

I'd love to meet you! Come on down to the Deli and have coffee with me. Everyone is welcome! The fun is just starting!! Frankenstiens will be worked on very soon and hopefully will be opening in early Fall.

I've often wondered why Plymouth Ave. was left to deteriorate considering it is the gateway to downtown from the airport. What must visitors think. There are some grand old houses up and down Plymouth.. they represent what used to be and what could be again. Hope more of them will be rehabbed/restored instead of tore down and replaced with cookie cutter dwellings.

I rode the bus downtown last sat. Thought it would be fun to walk around and just enjoy the beautiful almost springlike weather. Ended up feeling discouraged by the absolute gray depressing deteriorated condition of our city. Filthy littered streets, stained and broken sidewalks,  boarded up windows, closed businesses. This is the best we can expect in a city of absolute wealth and prosperity. I don't remember the name of the person that owns a big chunk of property in the downtown Main and Clinton area, but he ought to be ashamed to claim ownership of that eyesore and the city of Rochester should be ashamed that they have given him a pass. There must be a dozen code violations just on the exterior. Code enforcement will hassle a landlord to replace a cracked tile in a laundryroom or paint a windowsill in a personal experience, but allow some violations that are so blatant because it's easier to pick on the little guy.

Then riding the bus back up Plymouth and seeing all the potential redevelopment because of people like you and your sons, it is heartening. I just don't want to think that Rochester could become like Detroit. for Dana Miller, I still haven't forgiven him for going against the majority of people in the Mt. Hope/Ford St. neighborhood and approving that godawful Erie Harbor. Wonder how many people that eyesore sent fleeing to the suburbs. All the landscaping in the world is not going to change that mistake!

We all deserve forgiveness. I don't have the info on that project. I think the ugliest building is the high rise. Keep your chin up and keep smiling.

Also, are you sure it was just Dana? Words from a very wise City Council person, Carolee Conklin, every time I meet with her she always reminds me, "remember Mary, I'm just one vote. You need to convience the rest of Council."


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