Harlem Woman Gets Affordable Housing Offers After Being 'Blacklisted'
By Jon Schuppe
HARLEM — Monique Holloway worried the so-called Housing Court "blacklist" was going to keep her from ever finding an apartment in any of the affordable-housing developments sprouting across her neighborhood.
That was a week ago. Now, the management company that rejected her application twice on behalf of a Harlem development agency is promising to get her a different one, pronto.
"I am happy," Holloway, 42, said Wednesday morning. "Now I have a chance to actually move and get the space I need."
Her change in fortune came after she spoke out about her rejection in a city-sponsored lottery for The Tapestry, a new building on East 124th Street that set aside some of its apartments to low-income residents.
Holloway, who is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from lupus, got a letter from the developer that rejected her application because her credit check revealed an old case in Housing Court. The all-too-common practice, which locals refer to as "the blacklist," has become a way for affordable-housing developers to eliminate tenants.
Even after Holloway convinced a judge to dismiss the old case, which was the result of a dispute between her landlord and the officials who administered her federal Section 8 housing voucher, developers refused to reconsider.
Holloway went to Community Board 11 in East Harlem, which took up her cause. Then an article about her appeared on DNAinfo. Immediately afterward, a representative of C & C Management, which handled applications for The Tapestry’s developer, called to offer her a new apartment elsewhere. There was no mention of the "blacklist" or her Housing Court case, Holloway said.
C & C Management did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Holloway was shown an apartment on 148th Street, but her chair couldn’t fit in the kitchen or bathroom. So C&C promised her a place at The Genesis, a project of three buildings in West Harlem that will open in 2011.
Holloway has been looking for a new apartment since 2006, when she fell and broke her neck, leaving her with little movement in her limbs. She’s been applying through the city’s affordable-housing lottery system for about a year. With each rejection, she grew more convinced that she'd never move out her drafty place on St. Nicholas Avenue.
Her case was one of several that have raised concerns among East Harlem officials that the Housing Court "blacklist" could undermine the city’s massive effort to expand the amount of affordable housing.
A spokesman for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development said the agency has "not found that this is a prevalent issue by this particular management company or others."
He stressed that it was OK for a developer to reject an applicant for a Housing Court case, but only if it was a case in which the tenant was at fault.
"Given the vast volumes of people and paperwork involved in every single lottery, the system is in total a great success," the spokesman said. "But we absolutely agree that any imperfections in the system, no matter how common or uncommon, need to eliminated."
HPD is now working to make sure developers’ managing agents make more clear if an applicant has been rejected for "housing court activity," he said. The agency also wants to better explain to applicants what documents they need to appeal their rejections.
That satisfies Holloway. She said she hopes her experience will help make it easier for others.