Survivors of Domestic Violence Evicted for Calling Police

Posted on Central Foothill Mommies. The image depicts domestic violence.
Posted on Central Foothill Mommies

When most people call 911 seeking protection from an abusive partner, they do not expect to receive an eviction notice from their landlord. Unfortunately, a “disorderly behavior” ordinance has changed that expectation. This week, Atlantic Cities wrote an article exposing this issue.

For many years, municipal laws in Pennsylvania mandated that a landlord evict tenants for calling the police three times within a four month period if the call is in regards to disorderly behavior. According to Pennsylvania municipalities, domestic violence is a form of disorderly behavior and, in turn, survivors were penalized by this law. After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) threatened to bring a lawsuit disputing the law’s constitutionality, municipalities repealed the “three strike” ordinance. However, another very similar law was enacted in Norristown (a city in Pennsylvania). The new law fines landlords when tenants call the police for disorderly behavior. Such laws inadvertently encourage landlords to evict tenants that are experiencing domestic violence.

Sandra Park of the ACLU blogged about the injustices behind and implications of these laws. She writes:

These laws violate tenants’ First Amendment right to petition their government, which includes the right to contact law enforcement. They also violate the federal Violence Against Women Act, which protects many domestic violence victims from eviction based on crimes committed against them, and the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, and was enacted 45 years ago this month… Such evictions are often motivated by gender stereotypes that hold victims responsible for the abuse they experience.

Not only do these ordinances perpetuate stereotypes, they also deny survivors safety. Such laws insist that domestic disputes are personal matters and, as a result, police should not intervene (even when a partner experiences physical or emotional abuse).  As survivors are painted as instigators and as law enforcement refuses to intervene, domestic violence becomes trivialized.

While certain housing protections for domestic violence survivors exist in New York City, there are many loopholes in the law. According to New Destiny Housing, a tenant residing in a rent stabilized unit cannot be evicted if they temporarily flee their apartment due to a domestic violence dispute.  Similarly, a tenant living in Section 8 and NYCHA public housing cannot solely be evicted on grounds of domestic violence. Such laws address the need to provide safety to survivors, but they do not contain a clause granting protections when the dispute disturbs other tenants. Without that clause, domestic violence survivors are still subject to eviction.  As these ordinances spread to other parts of the country, we hope that their unjust nature is exposed, dismantled, and eliminated.

This issue reminds us of a similar situation with Secure Communities.  In this controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, local police information is shared with ICE, and undocumented immigrants can be deported for any contact with police. Rather than created real safety in our communities, this program discourages those experiencing domestic violence from calling the police for fear of deportation.  This program must be ended, like the laws around eviction must be changed, in order to provide real safety for our communities and a working relationship with law enforcement.

If you or someone you know is being evicted or experiencing other housing challenges as a result of domestic violence, call the New Destiny Housing Helpline at (646) 472-0262, Ext. 15.


Remember Amadou Diallo: Stand Up Against Police Brutality and Racial Profiling!


14 years ago today, 22 year old Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by the police in the doorway of his apartment building in the Soundview section of the Bronx.  Amadou was unarmed and a recent immigrant. His murder sparked widespread protest against the NYPD, and has become symbolic of the mistrust between the police and communities of color. In October, the officer who initiated the shooting was reunited with his gun. This fact adds to an increasing sentiment that the NYPD’s practices are in opposition to the best interests of most New Yorkers. In the past year, the relationship between New York and the boys in blue has deteriorated drastically, particularly in communities of color.

NYPD policies:

While we recognize that many NYPD officers support and work towards the best interest of the community, most are required to participate in the policies listed above.  These tactics instill a dangerous fear of law enforcement and dissuade us from standing up for ourselves and our communities.

Often when organizing in buildings, particularly in the Bronx, we hear that tenants are afraid to speak out against the horrible conditions that they suffer.  Some tenants are afraid of the landlord, some of their immigration status. As organizers, we work to empower communities, facilitate them coming together and facing something seemingly frightening together. Through organizing, demonstrating, and demanding changes, we can change the police system into the empowering body that it should be, into something that will uplift our communities.

Join Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice TODAY to honor Amadou Diallo’s life and to END police brutality and racial profiling:

What: Amadou Diallo Rally & Prayer Vigil
Where/When: 6:00 PM – Meet at Youth Ministrites for Peace and Justice, 1384 Stratford Avenue, Bronx NY
6:15 PM – March Starts
6:30PM – Prayer Vigil Starts @ Amadou Diallo’s Home, 1157 Wheeler Avenue, Bronx, NY 10472

For more information, click here

Small Win for Communities against “Stop and Frisk,” but It’s Not Enough!

Rally against Stop and Frisk in San Francisco 7/2012

A small but important victory took place last week for communities against “Stop and Frisk”, the controversial NYPD program.  The program, which allows police to stop people and frisk them for drugs and weapons, has been under fire from all directions for targeting people (particularly young men) of color. As we’ve written before, an offshoot of “Stop and Frisk” is the “Operation Clean Halls” program in which landlords allow police to enter buildings to implement stop and frisk policies in order to stop potential trespassers.  Unfortunately, like most factions of this racist program, it is the tenants and the guests who suffer.  The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the NYCLU have filed lawsuits against the program, and have collected case after case of tenants who have been targeted and policed in their own homes.

Last week, the Bronx District Attorney announced that it will refuse to prosecute anyone charged with trespassing unless the arresting officer is interviewed to ensure that the arrest was actually warranted   In a letter from Jeanette Rucker, the DA’s bureau chief for arraignments stated “in many (but not all) of the cases the defendants arrested were either legitimate tenants or invited guests.” (As reported by the NYTimes.)

The hope is that through interviewing the arresting officers, less innocent victims will be charged with trespassing.  As I’m sure readers are aware, there are all sorts of consequences when a person enters the complicated and flawed criminal justice system, which greatly impacts their future.  When someone comes in contact with this system unjustly time and time again- particularly to young men of color- there is an enormous impact on the community at large.  All I’m saying is someone in power should read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

While the change in the Bronx’s DA is positive, it is clearly not enough.  Not only should all DA offices in the city follow this new policy, but we need to continue to push for the end of “Stop and Frisk” and heavy policing of communities of color altogether.  We need to rethink our criminal justice system in a way that moves apart from SB1070, Secure Communities, and Stop and Frisk.  We need a more creative and just system that protects us rather than one that results in collective punishment.

Friday News Round Up!

Friday the 13th! Avoid bad luck by reading our news round-up!

  1. Why Can’t the Bronx be More Like Brooklyn?” Adam Davidson of NPR’s Planet Money contributed to this week’s New York Times Magazine with an article about urban development in the Bronx. Economic growth in NYC has far outpaced growth in the Bronx, and it has been somewhat impervious to the gentrification that is changing Western Brooklyn and Queens. But Davidson suggests the comparison between the only mainland borough and the rest NYC is less valid than we may think.  He suggests we should be comparing the Bronx to rust belt cities like Buffalo and Detroit, cities whose growth is far more stagnant than the Bronx’s.
  2. The Bronx certainly struggles from a negative perception problem, but the northernmost borough is home many NYC gems! (If you haven’t, visit it!) Simply changing its perception doesn’t necessarily do justice to the real struggle that Bronx tenants face, as illustrated by this NBC News video inside the College Avenue buildings owned by Eli Abbott and featured on Bill de Blasio’s Worst Landlord Watch list.
  3. Chicago is challenging Obama’s Secure Communities program. In a new ordinance, Mayor Rahm Emanual has proposed barring police from turning anyone over to ICE unless they have been convicted of a serious crime or have an outstanding search warrant.  Isn’t this what S-Comm was originally intended to do, anyway?  (Not that we agree with deporting anyone with criminal records, but that’s another story.)  An article in the NYTimes cites Emanuel as saying that he plans to make Chicago the most immigrant- friendly city in the country.  Fighting S-Comm is certainly a good start.
  4. Unionized employees of Con-Edison, Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), are striking for better wages, better pensions, and affordable healthcare.  Thirteen days ago, 8,500 union workers were locked out of Con-Edison during negotiations after the expiration of a 4 year contract.  The lockout is particularly contentious due to the on-going heat wave, which is raising the risk of power failures and endangering New Yorkers prone to heat stroke.  Christine C Quinn has voiced her public disapproval of Con-Ed’s lockout, calling on them to end it now in order to provide safe, consistent electricity to New Yorkers.
  5. On Monday morning, Amtrak unveiled plans for a Northeast High Speed Rail Line. The Atlantic Cities gives a brief overview of the history of trains in the Northeast, and describes how a high speed rail could truly impact (for the better) the smaller, struggling cities within a few hours of New York. “By shrinking the distance between vibrant urban cores and the smaller communities that lie between them,” Yoni Appelbaum writes, ” high-speed rail could spark an economic boom.” Don’t get too excited: the project is 10 years away at least.

End Racial Profiling and Police-ICE Collaboration! SB1070, S-Comm and Stop and Frisk

Today’s announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “show me your papers” section of SB1070, Arizona’ notorious immigration bill, came as an unwelcome shock to immigrant rights advocates.  While this decision does not seem to directly impact New York City or the tenants we work with, the consequences are vast.  Not only have there already been several copycat laws passed and even more introduced in various other states, but this law highlights the blatant racism that guides our immigration and law enforcement systems.

As a reminder, SB1070 is the controversial immigration law implemented in the summer of 2010 designed to help the national government better enforce its immigration laws in Arizona. The bill essentially allowed for police in Arizona to act as immigration agents by asking for papers and detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.  The law also made it a state crime to be undocumented in Arizona and to work without papers.

The Supreme Court deemed three out of the four aspects of the law in question to be unconstitutional, but left the most controversial piece of the bill intact: police must ask those they deem “reasonably suspicious” to be undocumented for their immigration papers.  It has been argued several times over that this piece of the legislation necessitates police to use racial profiling since there is no way other way for police to guess someone’s immigration status without judging by someone’s appearence.

While a copycat law has not yet been introduced in New York, several other policies are in place which institutionalize racism in law and local immigration enforcement.  Secure Communities (S-Comm), recently reinstated statewide, is a national immigration program expected to be nationwide by 2013.  Like SB1070, this program creates distrust between communities of color and the police  since it allows for ICE and police collaboration, though in a less direct way. Through S-Comm, ICE can access and run immigration checks on local fingerprint databases.  The result has been a massive increase of deportations of people stopped for broken taillights or other non-criminal actions (the official reason for the program is to deport undocumented people who pose a threat to society).

A second widely criticized program which has served as a way to institutionalize racism in our communities is Stop and Frisk.  This New York City program is under a high level of scrunity by communities of color, activists, and increasingly elected officials. According to a report issued by the NYCLU,

Although they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for over 40 percent of stops last year. Nine of every 10 was found innocent. Even more alarming is that the number of stops of young black men exceeded New York’s entire population of young black men.

The report also reveals that while black and Latino New Yorkers are overwhelmingly more likely to be frisked than whites, they are less likely to be found with a weapon; police found guns, drugs, or stolen property on white suspects about twice as often as they did on black suspects. Overall, for each frisk, a weapon was found only 1.9 percent of the time.

Stop and Frisk’s faction “Operation Clean Halls” even more directly impacts tenants we work with since it allows for Stop and Frisk to take place in private apartment buildings.    Through the program, police are able to enter buildings and Stop and Frisk tenants in lobbies and hallways of their own homes.  To read more about this program, click here to read a past blog post.

Programs and laws like SB1070, Secure Communities, and Stop and Frisk do not make our communities safer.  Instead, they develop mistrust and fear of law enforcement, and we must get rid of these programs in order to live in a safe world devoid of racism.  To get involved in the conversation addressing S-Comm and Stop and Frisk locally, attend a forum this Thursday at 6:00 at Hunter School of Social Work.

S-Comm: End It, Don’t Mend It!

As many of you are aware, the never-ending confusion surrounding Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s program Secure Communities continues as two recent reports were released, and ICE plans to extend the program nationwide by next year.  Just this week, Montana and Washington implemented the controversial program, bringing the total to 34 states. Through Secure Communities, all fingerprints collected by local police are checked against ICE databases, supposedly meant to locate and deport undocumented immigrants with criminal histories.  Unfortunately, the program has sparked widespread fear in immigrant communities, and has proven time and time again that regardless of criminal history, immigrants are being deported for minor violations.  In addition, several reports have shown that Secure Communities discourages women who are victims of domestic violence to call the police for fear of deportation.   When police can act as immigration agents, who can we trust to protect us?

Met with powerful organizing, lawsuits, and media attention, ICE has revoked the program in three states and several cities, including NY.  This proved that states could opt-out and the question remains if this is this possible again.   ICE wants to “fix” glitches in the system such as mass deportations of immigrants with no criminal backgrounds or widespread abuse in detention centers, while immigrant and activist communities have called on ICE to “End It, Not Mend It.”

UHAB organizers stand with immigrant communities in the call to end Secure Communities now!  As tenant organizers, we work to build power and confidence in buildings to stand up for their rights and improve their communities.  Racist programs like “Stop and Frisk,” “Operation Clean Halls” and “Secure Communities” instill fear in, and create tensions between communities and the police.  Only through real policy change and engaging communities honestly can our country create safe places to live for everyone living here.

We need to work together to make sure this program does not spread nationwide!  Check out the End It, Don’t Mend It campaign here where you can sign petitions and stay updated on the campaign.