Henry was evicted from his upper Manhattan apartment within a few months after receiving an eviction notice. He had been living in the apartment for over 12 years and because of an administrative error not due to Henry, his bank bounced his checks. Then, Henry’s landlord reacted in summary fashion, issuing the notice of eviction and failing to inquire why, after a dozen years, Henry was behind on his rent. When the eviction notice was placed on Henry’s door, Henry discarded it. I know that you ask: “how do you discard an eviction notice?” Henry does not understand very much English; he never graduated high school; and he appears to have a cognitive disability, in addition to being nearly fully deaf, so that the legal notice, like the bounced checks reflected in his unopened monthly bank statements, held no meaning for Henry.
Henry’s landlord won an order of eviction and placed his personal belongings in a warehouse in the Bronx and changed the locks that Henry held keys to for the last dozen years. As I write this short piece, I glance at the list of Henry’s inventory carted off to the warehouse. Soap. Shampoo. Glass jars. Pots. Plates. Duffle bag. Glass lion. Cups. Four Pillows. Four hearing aids. Vase. Shoes. Broom. Glass coffee maker. Blankets. Cookie sheets. Birth certificate. Lease. This is the inventory of a life lived on the margins-a life touched by near deafness and cognitive disability. A life where education is limited; work non-existent; and home and a glass lion and a few other personal belongings means everything to this deaf man who celebrated turning fifty years old a few weeks after his ignoble eviction.
We were fortunate to advance legal arguments that led to Henry’s return to home and the recovery of his modest belongings. Not all tenants are so lucky. I walk into housing courtrooms every month and there are hundreds of tenants, many with young children who wait, without legal representation, for a moment with a judge; and a moment to beg for more time to cobble together a few more dollars to remain at home and avoid a homeless shelter. “Another thirty days please, Your Honor, and we will find the money to pay our arrears.
Now in our seventh year as a public interest law center, we report that we are proud of the work that we do on a daily basis. We are a bridge between instability and a safer world. If you are reflecting upon charitable giving before the end of this calendar year, kindly consider a gift to the New York Center for Law and Justice.
Or consider joining us for an informative, inspirational and elegant evening next month when we celebrate our accomplishments and reflect upon the meaning of disability at our annual event at Danese/Corey Gallery, in Chelsea, just beneath the High Line.
We attach a copy of our invitation.
All the best,