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Contempt ruling upheld against DHCR.

A contempt ruling against the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal has been upheld by the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, in a case involving a delayed Major Capital Improvement (MCI) Order. Money damages are to be ordered.

Apartment building owner Fay Fished won the ruling after DHCR failed to issue and MCI on her Brooklyn building by March 11, 1989, as ordered by a State Supreme Court judge. The initial order followed a mandamus action by Fishel to get DHCR to issue a decision on her March, 1987, MCI application.

"This is a victory for all owners," said Dan Margulies, executive director of Community Housing Improvement Program, which assisted Mrs. Fishel in fighting DHCR's appeal "DHCR cannot keep ignoring the courts and owner's rights with impunity."

Joseph Pomeranz and Merly L. Zimberg of Graubard Mollen Horowitz Pomeranz & Shapiro represented Fishel in the case.

DHCR finally issued an MCI to Fishel in May, 1989, and argued that because it issued a decision it made the contempt finding moot. But the Appellate Division unanimously found that "if the appellant (DHCR) genuinely needed more time to process the petitioners application in good faith, it should have so notified the court. Instead, it ignored a valid judicial mandate," and "caused the petitioner to incur additional expenses to her detriment."

Margulies urged owners to seek contempt orders against DHCR when appropriate. "We have to hold their feet to the fire," he noted, "State budget cuts may mean even poorer service and the regulatory system is already unmanageable." He also noted that in cases begun after April, 1990, owners could seek legal fees for correcting DHCR mistakes in court.
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Title Annotation:New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 22, 1991
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