Official Blasts NYC Housing Authority For Evicting Elderly Amputee

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. called out the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) on Thursday, April 11, after the agency evicted a senior citizen who was in a rehabilitation center recovering from a leg amputation. NYCHA is accused of evicting 72-year-old Bienvenido Martinez from his apartment at the Union Avenue Consolidation in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx last year after he fell behind $816 in his rent payment. Martinez had lived in the senior building for 14 years prior to his eviction, New York Daily News reported.

Martinez, who does not have any immediate family, was staying at the Beth Abraham Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing for temporary care after he underwent an above-the-knee leg amputation. In August 2018, NYCHA told Martinez it was evicting him from his apartment after he failed to pay back rent. In October 2018, caseworkers at the rehab center told NYCHA to cease the eviction because Martinez was in temporary care. However, NYCHA moved ahead with the eviction and removed Martinez from his home in December 2018, claiming it had been abandoned.

“This case is another example of why NYCHA is the worst landlord in New York City,” Díaz said in a statement to The North Star. “Rather than use common sense and judgment to work with a tenant in dire straights (sic), NYCHA has made a bad situation worse through its cold, callous treatment of this senior citizen.” Díaz sent a letter to NYCHA CEO and Interim Chair Kathryn Garcia, in which he complained that the agency had disposed Martinez’s possessions in the garbage instead of placing them in storage as is required by law. Martinez lost his state identification, birth certificate, and Social Security card due to the agency’s “heartless purge,” Díaz wrote.

Martinez told reporters that what he most misses are photographs of his sister and brother. In a press conference on Tuesday, Díaz demanded NYCHA provide Martinez with a new apartment and to compensate him for his lost possessions. “It is shameful that NYCHA has no trouble expediting the eviction of a newly disabled senior citizen but cannot seem to move as quickly to replace its boilers or provide repairs for units with longstanding issues,” Díaz said in a statement. “NYCHA must resolve this situation as soon as possible because Mr. Martinez is ready to go home.”

Martinez’s neighbors told CBS New York that they were shocked at what they called NYCHA’s lack of compassion. Neighbor Corrie Tillman told the station that her mother has also had her legs amputated, and that imagining her getting thrown out of her apartment is “unbelievable.”

“Mr. Martinez now has no home, nor any possessions, thanks to your agency’s cruel and thoughtless treatment,” Díaz wrote in his letter. “While I can certainly understand that NYCHA cannot allow residents to live rent-free, one would think that your agency would be able to exhibit some level of discretion when it comes to the eviction of a senior citizen facing a medical emergency.”

Díaz said that NYCHA had failed to respond to his letter. NYCHA did not respond to The North Star’s request for comment but told WABC that it would work with Martinez to resolve the housing situation. “We are unable to comment on individual residents’ lease agreements, however we will work with the resident to restore his tenancy,” the agency told the TV station.

According to the agency’s website, more than 400,000 New Yorkers live in NYCHA’s 326 public housing developments throughout New York City’s five boroughs. An additional 235,000 receive subsidized rental assistance from the NYCHA-administered Section 8 Leased Housing Program.

Martinez said Tuesday that he has stayed at Beth Abraham while his housing situation is addressed. He said he is waiting to hear back from the agency about his future living arrangements.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.