Court administrators say they have extended until further notice a moratorium on eviction warrants or default judgments for failure to answer in cases involving New York City premises hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.
Judge Fern Fisher (See Profile), the chief administrator of the city's Civil Court, said her directives define the areas where the most serious post-Sandy disruptions persist, and where litigants are most at risk of being disadvantaged by the storm.
"We were concernednot that anyone would do it intentionallybut we were concerned that where an eviction might be going on, the person who was occupying the unit might be dead or they could be hospitalized due to the storm," Fisher, who is also state deputy chief administrative judge for New York City, said yesterday. "We don't want people to be evicted in places where they haven't been able to regain possession of their units."
In her directives, Fisher called Sandy one of the Northeast's "most historic and devastating storms" and the city is "still responding to a major disaster and widespread emergency conditions."
In order to proceed with an action, the directives order Civil Court judges to obtain from petitioners or their attorneys affidavits indicating that all essential services in a respondent's building or home remained operational after the storm. Alternatively, petitioners or their attorneys must state in an affidavit that essential services in a respondent's building have been restored, and that the respondent neither died nor was hospitalized due to Sandy.
Both directives, issued on Nov. 21, state they will remain in force until further notice.
Fisher said the emergency directives will be lifted as New York City officials declare buildings to be habitable once electricity, heat and water have been restored.
Under estimates Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave yesterday, more than 800 storm-damaged apartment buildings lack heat because equipment needs repair. Roughly 500 lack power. The vast majority are relatively small buildings, under six stories. An estimated 6,000 private homes also lack heat and power. But it's unclear how many of those are rented and subject to landlord laws, according to the Associated Press.
Fisher's directive applies to residences in certain ZIP Codes, which include some of the city's most heavily damaged neighborhoods, including all of Staten Island; Breezy Point, Broad Channel and Howard Beach in Queens; Bowling Green and Wall Street in Manhattan; and Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn.
Fisher instituted a moratorium on evictions and default judgments just after Sandy hit. She said yesterday that move left it up to judges to prevent litigants from being removed from their homes or receiving default judgments because of disruption caused by the storm.