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Leviathan

Leviathan

Dana makes a case for staying in the apartment where she lived and cared for her aunt Sheila.

Dear friends,

This is the story of how Dana avoided eviction from her apartment in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. It shows why it is important for tenants to have legal representation and assistance when facing eviction. Dana’s story is not uncommon. It’s the story of gentrification spreading like wildfire across New York City.

Dana’s story is the result of Prospect Lefferts Gardens becoming one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Brooklyn in the past several years. The neighborhood was dubbed “the last affordable Brooklyn neighborhood with park views” in 2017. Landlords realize that by evicting the predominantly low-income, Caribbean-American population and renovating their units, they can charge much more in rent.

In late 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, Dana stood trial in defense of the eviction proceeding brought against her by the landlord. The landlord initiated eviction after learning that Dana’s aunt Sheila, whose sole name was on the lease of the apartment, was no longer residing in the apartment. Sheila had passed away in 2019 after battling with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dana had moved in with Sheila in 2013, a few years after she had immigrated from Trinidad. Sheila, who was Dana’s paternal aunt, raised her along with her own son. The two were very close: “While [Dana] was growing up, she was closer with Sheila than she was with her mother; she spoke with Sheila about ‘growing up’ and ‘boys,’ which she never discussed with her mother,” reads the court motion issued last month.

Dana had been taking care of her aunt as her health deteriorated. “Dana regularly brushed Sheila’s hair, assisted her with dressing, and watched TV with Sheila. [She] commonly took Sheila to her medical appointments, and spoke to her doctors.” They spent holidays together with cousins, aunts, brothers, and sisters. In mid-2017, Sheila moved in with her son, who by then had moved out of their apartment to live with his wife. Dana would visit Sheila once a week, until she passed away in March 2019 at the age of 79. Dana’s cousin Nicole described Dana as going above and beyond for their aunt.

Brooklyn A helped Dana prove that there was an emotional and financial commitment and interdependence between her and her aunt Sheila. This allowed Dana to succeed Sheila’s tenancy. The court found that Dana satisfied the “family member” criteria based on the testimony our attorney helped her prepare.

Without the help of her Brooklyn A attorney, the deck would have been fully stacked against Dana and for the landlord. Their attorney argued that Dana and Sheila did not share an “emotionally committed relationship” and that Dana’s rent payments were not sufficient to prove a financial stake in her aunt’s household. Fortunately, these arguments did not convince the court, and today, Dana continues to live in the neighborhood she calls home.

Let’s speak some truth: The odds are against tenants. Unless an attorney is able to help them organize their case, documents, timelines, prepare filings, and support them through the paralyzing eviction process, tenants face a Leviathan.

If you or someone you know would like to request the assistance of our services, contact us at info@bka.org or (718) 487-2300. For a list of our legal services for renters, homeowners, small businesses, taxpayers, and nonprofits, visit www.bit.ly/bkakit.

Thank you,

The Brooklyn A Team

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