Applicants to the federally funded affordable Mitchell-Lama housing program have been routinely scratched from a waiting list in favor of well-connected candidates who are paying their way in, according to a new lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court, the New York Daily News reports.
The Mitchell-Lama program was designed in the 1950s to provide affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families throughout New York City and the nation. After applying and submitting an application fee, seekers of the coveted apartments are placed on a waiting list or are selected through a lottery process. In the cases of at least four applicants, according to the lawsuit, their numbers came up, but they were never notified, and their dream homes went to someone else, most often to people with ties to the decision makers. The lawsuit accuses the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) of ignoring the transgressions – of being “deliberately indifferent since at least 2009, if not earlier.”
“It’s a pervasive corruption at HPD,” said Dennis Kelly, a lawyer for four housing hopefuls who have filed a class-action suit against the city. “We think it’s deliberate mismanagement of the list.”
Among the plaintiffs is Kinetta Berry, a Mount Vernon resident who was on the waiting list for a two-bedroom unit in Adee Tower Apartments in the Bronx until she was removed from the list without notice on the false ground that she did not respond when contacted about an available unit, the lawsuit says. In at least one development, Queens’ Boulevard Towers, the names of only five of the 20 most recent tenants appeared on the building’s waiting list.
Last year, three Coney Island housing officials were arrested and charged with taking $874,000 in cash bribes to steer deep-pocketed applicants into 18 coveted Mitchell-Lama apartments in the Luna Park Co-op. The three defendants are accused of using the money to purchase pricey Florida real estate along with a high-end collection of fur coats, designer handbags, and jewelry. The three were charged in a massive 78-count indictment with conspiracy, grand larceny, bribe-receiving, and other crimes dating to 2013.
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