Saturday, May 28, 2016

After 8-Year Wait For Transfer To Wheelchair-Accessible Apartment, Disabled Tenant Suffering From Thyroid-Related Obesity ("I Am In Prison In My Own Home!") Slaps NYC Housing Authority w/ Fair Housing Suit Over Alleged Failure To Act On Request For Reasonable Accommodation

In Staten Island, New York, the New York Daily News reports:
  • She is a prisoner of her NYCHA apartment — waiting eight years and counting for a transfer to a wheelchair accessible apartment.

    Lawyers for a 400-pound Staten Island woman finally decided that she had been living in a potential deathtrap long enough, slapped NYCHA and the agency’s CEO Shola Olatoye with a federal lawsuit accusing them of violating their duty to accommodate a disabled tenant.

    The doorways of Josephine Loya’s apartment at the Richmond Gardens Houses are 24-inches wide, and her wheelchair is more than 26-inches wide.

    A wheelchair accessible apartment has 28-inch doorways.

    The wheelchair has to be taken apart to get it through the front door,” Loya, 46, said. “I’m stuck. I am in prison in my own home.”

    Loya’s requests for a disability transfer have been stuck in NYCHA bureaucratic red tape since late 2007. She was finally approved for a transfer in September 2014, but Loya was informed by a property manager that the transfer policy requires that she remain on a waiting list for two years, according to the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

    “I would tell (the building manager), ‘Supposed there’s a fire in here?” Loya said. “He said, ‘Just pray to God it doesn’t happen.’”

    Two weeks ago, Loya was experiencing stomach pains and needed to go to the hospital. The medics and firefighters could not get Loya onto a gurney, so they had to lay her on the floor and drag her through the doorway.

    “It was embarrassing to say the least,” she said.

    “If there’s a fire, she’s going to die,” lawyer Logan Schiff of Staten Island Legal Services(1) told The News.

    Loya is mostly confined to a hospital bed in her living room. She can’t maneuver the wheelchair to the kitchen to cook, or the bathroom, so she must use a bed pan.

    Loya has lived in the apartment with her two children since 1999.

    “I wasn’t always this big,” she said. “I got sick.”

    She attributes the obesity to a thyroid condition and once weighed over 500 pounds. She also suffers from asthma and pulmonary disease, which has been exacerbated by black mold inside the apartment which NYCHA has allegedly failed to clean out.

    Loya’s only income is $1,400-per-month in Social Security to support herself and her two children.

    Her subsidized portion of the rent at the NYCHA apartment is $420 so she cannot afford to move to a wheelchair accessible apartment on her own, according to court papers.

    A Housing Authority spokeswoman said in a statement: “NYCHA will look into this case. Although we have been not served with this claim, we seek to work with Ms. Loya to resolve any outstanding mold issues in her current apartment and follow-up on any requests for transfer that she has previously made.”

    Schiff said there was a glimmer of hope last month when a NYCHA representative told Loya that there was a vacant apartment in the Mariner’s Harbor project. But when the lawyer inquired with management at Mariner’s Harbor, he was told that “no such information had been transmitted to them,” the suit says.
Source: Staten Island woman sues NYCHA after waiting eight years for wheelchair-friendly apartment and never receiving it.
(1) Staten Island Legal Services provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Staten Island residents in certain practice areas, including housing, foreclosure prevention, immigration, and family law/domestic violence.