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My name is Jonathan Riddix. I have been working with the Preserving Affordable Housing Program at Brooklyn A for 2 years. I enjoy providing legal services and advocating to place clients in a better position than they would be without our assistance.
Last week, my colleague Kristie Ortiz-Lam told us about the challenges we are seeing on the ground doing eviction prevention work during the pandemic. I want to further illustrate the importance of Brooklyn A’s services by telling the story of one the clients I recently worked with:
Over the summer Atalanta was briefly incarcerated. While she was incarcerated, her landlord took all her belongings out of her apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn and illegally evicted her in what is called an illegal lockout.
We learned of Atalanta’s situation and began working with her from jail. While she was incarcerated, legal advocates ensured that her personal safety and housing remained secure for her release. I filed an action in housing court to contest the illegal eviction and restore her access to the apartment.
When Atalanta was released, she had her home return to so she could be safe from the pandemic raging outside. However, her apartment was empty and the toxic relationship with the landlord remained. She relied on donations from friends to replace her clothing, furniture and other items.
Atalanta’s lease was expired there was a high likelihood that the landlord would commence an eviction proceeding. Between the illegal eviction and racial discrimination and harassment Atalanta faced, there were good grounds for an affirmative case. Atalanta and I filed a harassment case against the landlord. We negotiated a settlement where the landlord would have to give her $15,000 with the agreement that she move out of the apartment by April 1st.
The settlement partially recoups the value of Atalanta’s lost belongings that were illegally removed and moving costs so that she can find safer housing. This agreement may shift to prioritize Atalanta’s safety in light of the pandemic. Sometimes in our work of preserving affordable housing, a community member does not stay in their home but is given the tools to make the best decision for the stability of their personal situation.
Atalanta could have been without an apartment and lost the value of her belongings. Thanks to our intervention, we are getting her a buyout, and her rent arrears are being waived; this allows her to start over in a better position than where she was just a few months ago.
Your financial support helps us prevent homelessness and combat displacement and harassment of our low-income clients. If you have the means, please consider spreading justice with Brooklyn A by giving a donation. Your support and contribution are crucial to our ability to improve the housing stability of New Yorkers like Atalanta.
Jonathan Riddix, Esq.
Staff Attorney, Preserving Affordable Housing Program