ProPublica has the awful story of what happened to 32-year old Austria Bueno, her husband, and her two children as a result of the harsh and punitive use of local laws against poor people.
A lawsuit to be filed in Brooklyn Federal Court on Tuesday details an egregious case of the NYPD’s use of the nuisance abatement law — a controversial tool in which cops are able to get a temporary order barring people from their homes without first giving them the opportunity to appear before a judge.
Bueno’s ordeal began before she even got to the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City. Police say a confidential informant purchased crack at her future apartment twice in January 2015. A subsequent search turned up crack, weapons and $21,500.
Bueno and her family moved into the apartment months later, in August 2015.
On Dec. 11, a Friday, Bueno returned home after picking up her sons — ages 6 and 15 — from school to find a stack of legal papers and two neon-colored stickers taped to her door saying anyone who entered would be arrested. She was told to come to court the following Tuesday.
That night, the Bueno family slept at a hotel for $208. The following three nights, the family slept on the living room floor of her mother-in-law.
Bueno said she missed three days of work, resulting in a reduced paycheck. Her husband also missed work, and her youngest son was unable to attend school one day because he couldn’t retrieve a clean school uniform.
Bueno’s suit alleges that the NYPD did not even bother to contact New York City Housing Authority to find out if their targets still lived in the home they were asking a judge to close — despite filing the request 10 months after the search. The NYPD still claimed the apartment “is currently being operated, occupied and used illegally.”
Throwing people, including children, out of their home is a major step and I cannot imagine how the police could summarily do it without checking and double-checking and being absolutely sure. And even after such checking, allowing them to first appeal their ouster.
Actually, I can imagine it in the case of people like her. Bueno works as a housekeeper so she is one of those people who do not count, who can be treated like dirt by the police and the legal system. What I cannot imagine is it happening to people like me. The idea that anyone who is reasonably wealthy would be barred from their homes without the option of first appealing to a judge is unthinkable.
Bueno is now suing the city police department.
After her lawyer explained the situation at her first court date, Bueno was allowed back into her home. Rather than apologizing for the mistake and dropping the case, the NYPD’s attorney dragged it on for three months in an effort to get Bueno to sign a settlement waiving her right to sue, the lawsuit says. She refused.
“When they have to do something like that they’re supposed to know one hundred percent that the person they’re still looking for is still living in the apartment,” Bueno said.
Her suit also seeks unspecified damages.
So after treating her cruelly, they then try to extort a waiver from her. Nice going, NYPD.
I hope she wins her suit and wins big. Yes, it is the general taxpayer who will pay but hitting them hard in the pocket is the only language that the police understand. And they know it.