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New York Times Features Victories by ECBA Clients over Big Development

Two ECBA clients were featured by the New York Times in its recent article The People vs. Big Development. The article highlights a court order blocking a massive development project, heavily opposed by the local community, in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  The New York City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for approving the project without undergoing the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires extensive community input and final approval by the City Council. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a permanent injunction enjoining any construction on the project until a ULURP review is performed.

The article also highlights the legal challenge to the 200 Amsterdam tower, in which ECBA represents the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development in a suit challenging the developer’s creation of a “gerrymandered” 39-sided zoning lot.  As The Times reports, the resulting out-of-scale tower would be over twice the height of nearby towers, and the “tallest north of 61st Street.”

To read the article, click here.

ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr.Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

ECBA Attorneys Richard D. Emery and Katherine Rosenfeld represent the Municipal Art Society of New York and the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development.

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ECBA Files Federal Class Action Challenging False Arrests of Visitors to Rikers Island

On December 3, 2019, ECBA and co-counsel Romano & Kuan PLLC filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of visitors to Rikers Island who were baselessly arrested and accused of smuggling synthetic marijuana, known as “K2,” onto Rikers Island.  All five lead Plaintiffs were visiting loved ones on Rikers Island and brought books with them, either as gifts to the inmates or to read themselves while they waited.  All five were baselessly arrested and prosecuted on accusations of transporting K2 on the pages of their books.

All charges against the lead Plaintiffs were dropped at their initial court appearances following their arraignments.  Even once charges were dropped, all lead Plaintiffs were banned from all City correction facilities for anywhere from six months to one year, and the inmates whom they were visiting were denied the ability to have contact visits. The Complaint alleges that the City has a practice of making these wrongful arrests of persons who have done nothing more than bring a book to an incarcerated loved one.

To read the complaint, click here.

To read coverage of the lawsuit in the New York Daily News, click here.

ECBA’s Matt Brinckerhoff, Earl Ward, and David Berman, along with Julia Kuan of Romano and Kuan, represent the plaintiffs.

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ECBA Clients Win Article 78 Petition Requiring NYPD to Produce Fare Evasion Data

On September 23, 2019 state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted an Article 78 Petition filed by ECBA on behalf of clients Council Member Rory I. Lancman and the Community Service Social of New York (“CSSNY”).   The order compels  the New York City Police Department to disclose statistics, which are required to be made public by City Law, regarding arrests made and civil summonses issued to individuals for fare evasion at each of the 472 subway stations in New York City.  These statistics, which will provide the public with an important tool ensure accountability from the Police Department.

After CSSNY issued a detailed report reflecting that the vast majority of arrests and summonses for subway fare evasion occur in poor African-American communities, Council Member Lancman introduced legislation requiring the Police Department to release quarterly reports detailing the number of arrests under New York Penal Law § 165.15 and summonses under MTA Rule of Conduct § 1050.4 that were issued for fare evasion at each subway station throughout New York City and to break down the data by various demographic criteria, such as the race, gender, and age range of each person arrested or summonsed.  Council Member’s Lancman’s proposed bill was unanimously approved by the City Council and went into law as New York City Administrative Code § 14-172 in January 2018.  Since the law’s enactment, the Police Department had brazenly refused to comply with its obligations.  Yesterday’s ruling will ensure that the City will receive the transparency that the City Council has required and that the public deserves.

Coverage of the decision in the New York Post is here.

The Petitioners are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery and David Berman.

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Court Grants Preliminary Injunction and Article 78 Petition Blocking Construction in Two Bridges Neighborhood

On August 1, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a preliminary injunction and Article 78 Petition blocking the construction of four massive towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan.  The New York City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council.  ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr.Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

The decision was covered by the New York Times,  New York Post, Gothamist, and Curbed.

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ECBA Files Amended Complaint Against Albany County Nursing Home

On July 2nd, ECBA filed an amended complaint in its case against the Albany County Nursing Home, alleging a pattern and practice of mistreatment against elderly patients and residents. The complaint was amended to include three additional plaintiffs, who experienced similarly tragic and disturbing neglect while in the care of the facility.

Read coverage of the complaint and the new plaintiffs from the Albany Times Union here. The amended complaint is available here.

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Representing the New York City Council, ECBA Obtains Temporary Halt to Two Bridges Development

On June 5, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron extended a temporary restraining order blocking the construction of a development project in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan.  The City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council.  ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr., Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

The decision was covered by the New York Post, Gothamist, The Real Deal, and City Limits.

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ECBA Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Family of Elderly Resident Left to Die in Albany County Nursing Home

New York, NY – As reported in the Albany-Times Union, this morning, the daughter of Albany resident Roger Sanford filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the Albany County Nursing Home, its Executive Director Larry Slatky, and other Nursing Home staff, for civil rights violations and wrongful death.

On March 1, 2018, Mr. Sanford’s daughter found him alone in his Nursing Home room, gasping for air, drenched in sweat, with an oxygen tube dangling from his nose. This followed months where Mr. Sanford was often unchanged, unfed, unmedicated, unwashed, unshaven, and even covered in his own urine and feces, the Complaint alleges. Mr. Sanford died as a result of the Nursing Home’s reckless disregard for his life.

A New York State Department of Health investigation found that the Nursing Home violated federal laws by failing to provide Mr. Sanford with basic life support or CPR; failing to follow professional standards of practice; and failing to provide Mr. Sanford with necessary respiratory care.

As alleged in the Complaint, when Mr. Sanford’s daughter complained to Executive Director Slatky about her father’s poor care, Mr. Slatky boasted that a relative of a Nursing Home employee worked in the Department of Health’s complaint department and would make sure any complaint against the Nursing Home disappeared.

“My hope and prayer is that our lawsuit will force Albany County Nursing Home to provide much safer care and services and that reckless and negligent deaths will be prevented. My father suffered horrifically, he was grossly neglected, he was denied basic medical care and he died prematurely because staff refused to get him to the hospital for days or even bother to call 911 when he was in a dire medical emergency. It broke my heart to find my father laying in his bed gasping for air, sweating profusely with no one there to assist him or help save his life.” said Lori LaRock, Mr. Sanford’s daughter.

“We expect nursing homes to take care of our loved ones, not to let them suffer and die alone,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel, and a lawyer at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “Albany County Nursing Home’s treatment of Mr. Sanford was unconscionable and indefensible.”

“No one should have to endure what Mr. Sanford’s family went through” said David Berman, another lawyer for Mr. Sanford’s family,  “Albany County Nursing Home must be held accountable for Mr. Sanford’s suffering.”

For more information, contact:

Ilann M. Maazel or David Berman

Emery Celli Brinkerhoff & Abady LLP (in New York) 212-763-5000

imaazel@ecbalaw .com dberman@ecbalaw.com

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ECBA Attorneys Reach Historic Settlement to Reform Facebook’s Housing Advertising Platform

On March 18, 2019 ECBA attorneys announced a $2,450,000 settlement for clients the National Fair Housing Alliance (“NFHA”), the Fair Housing Justice Center (“FHJC”), Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. (“HOPE”), and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (“FHCGSA”) to settle housing discrimination claims against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”).  This agreement will implement far-reaching changes across Facebook’s advertising platform for housing, employment and credit (“HEC”) advertising.  In March, 2018 ECBA filed suit in federal district court alleging that Facebook had created pre-populated lists making it possible for housing advertisers to “exclude” (in Facebook terminology) Facebook users from receiving rental, sales or financing ads because of their race, national origin, sex, disability or family status.

The Facebook settlement sets a new benchmark for assuring that targeted advertising on social media complies with civil rights laws.  Facebook will establish a separate advertising portal for creating HEC ads on Facebook and all Facebook-owned platforms, including Instagram and Messenger.  On this new portal, HEC advertisers will not be able to target Facebook users (1) based on gender, age or multi-cultural affinity; (2) by zip code as all HEC ads must have a minimum geographic radius of 15 miles from a specific address or from the center of a city; and (3) based on categories that describe or appear to relate to personal characteristics or classes protected under federal, state, and local fair housing laws, including, race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, family status, disability, and sexual orientation.

In addition, Facebook will create a new page which will allow consumers to view all housing ads placed on the Facebook platform irrespective of whether the consumer was part of the advertisers’ targeted audience.  NFHA will work with Facebook to develop an in-house fair housing training program for Facebook leadership and staff.  Facebook will provide ECBA’s clients with $500,000 of in-kind advertising to promote fair housing on Facebook.

Finally, Facebook will pay $1.9 million in damages and attorneys’ fees, including to provide future training for housing advertisers on how to use social media in a manner consistent with fair housing laws and to create programming to promote fair housing using social media.

The Plaintiffs are represented by ECBA attorneys Diane L. Houk, Katherine Rosenfeld, and David Berman.

Click here to read NFHA’s press release.

Click here to read the settlement agreement.

Read more about ECBA’s work on this case in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

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Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction for ECBA Client Unlawfully Labeled as a Sex Offender

On January 11, 2019 the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted ECBA client Equan Yunus a preliminary injunction removing his unconstitutional designation as a sex offender.  Although Mr. Yunus has never committed sexual misconduct, he had been forced to register as a sex offender under New York’s irrational and overbroad offender registration laws.  Because of this designation, Mr. Yunus was subject to numerous overbearing parole conditions designed to deter sex offenses that bore no relation to his crime of conviction, including limitations on his ability to access a cell phone or computer and to interact with minor members of his own family.

While the New York Court of Appeals had upheld this law as rational years earlier in another case, the federal court agreed with Mr. Yunus and ECBA that this treatment as a sex offender violated his constitutional right to substantive due process.  Mr. Yunus’s designation and its accompanying oppressive restrictions must be removed as a result of the Court’s ruling.

ECBA Attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and David Berman represent Mr. Yunus.  To read the Court’s opinion granting Mr. Yunus a preliminary injunction, click here.  To read the Guardian’s profile of Mr. Yunus’s case, click here. To read coverage of the case in the New York Law Journal, click here.

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ECBA Files Article 78 Petition Against NYPD for Failure to Comply with City Law

On September 19, 2018, ECBA filed a Petition pursuant to Article 78 of the CPLR on behalf of New York City Council Member Rory I. Lancman, MTA Board Member David R. Jones, and the Community Service Society of New York (“CSSNY”) seeking an order to compel the New York City Police Department to comply with a New York City Law which requires it to post reports on its website regarding arrests made and civil summonses issued to individuals for fare evasion at each of the 472 subway stations in New York City.

After CSSNY issued a detailed report reflecting that the vast majority of arrests and summonses for subway fare evasion occur in poor African-American communities, Council Member Lancman introduced legislation requiring the Police Department to release quarterly reports detailing the number of arrests under New York Penal Law § 165.15 and summonses under MTA Rule of Conduct § 1050.4 that were issued for fare evasion at each subway station throughout New York City and to break down the data by various demographic criteria, such as the race, gender, and age range of each person arrested or summonsed.  Council Member’s Lancman’s proposed bill was unanimously approved by the City Council and went into law as New York City Administrative Code § 14-172 in January 2018.  Three required reporting periods have passed since the law’s enactment and the Police Department has brazenly refused to comply with its statutory obligation.

The Petitioners are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery and David Berman.  A copy of the Petition is available here, and coverage of this lawsuit in the New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News is available here, here, and here.

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