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NYCHA Didn't Evict Accused Police Killer Because His Family Member Was Sick

By Gustavo Solis | November 30, 2015 6:51pm
 Tyrone Howard is walked into Manhattan Criminal Court after being charged with shooting Officer Randolph Holder in East Harlem, Oct. 21, 2015.
Tyrone Howard is walked into Manhattan Criminal Court after being charged with shooting Officer Randolph Holder in East Harlem, Oct. 21, 2015.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

EAST HARLEM — The city’s Housing Authority had been looking to evict accused police killer Tyrone Howard from the East River Houses months before he was charged with shooting Randolph Holder — but held back because one of his family members was sick, officials said.

“In that case, one of the members of the family that resided in the apartment had a very serious illness,” said NYCHA’s general counsel David Farber during a public hearing Monday.

Because NYCHA files eviction proceedings against an entire household and not just individuals who commit crimes, the Housing Authority used discretion during Howard’s case, Farber said.

Another reason for the holdup was insufficient information from the NYPD regarding criminal activity, Farber said. Additionally, he said, "Howard was not authorized to live in the housing development."

The eviction process — which takes between four months and a year to complete — started in January 2015 over a 2013 drug dealing charge that Howard pleaded guilty to in May 2015.

Howard is charged with killing NYPD officer Holder in October.

In the wake of the shooting, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged NYCHA to streamline the eviction process, the Daily News reported.

At a hearing on Monday, Farber told Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, chairman of the City Council’s Public Housing Committee, that NYCHA aims to reduce the time it takes to remove families to two and one-half months.

The NYPD will have one week to share data with the Housing Authority, which will then have one week to start the case and 60 days to end it, the housing official said.

A major part of the overhaul is to how the NYPD shares crime information with NYCHA, including gaining more access to arrest information and complaint records. 

An arrest is not enough to open an eviction case. NYCHA needs to prove that a crime happened beyond a preponderance of evidence in order for it to begin. 

In Howard’s case, NYCHA had some arrest records but it was not enough to initiate eviction proceedings, Farber said.

Currently, NYCHA is tasked with choosing which crime-related evictions to prioritize. The NYPD's input could help the agency make more informed decisions, he added.

“In that very tragic circumstance, that’s an example of how the improved information and communication sharing between NYCHA and the NYPD would’ve changed that,” he said.

In more than 80 percent of eviction cases, the family reaches an agreement with NYCHA only to evict the individual who committed a crime, according to Farber.

More than half of the eviction cases — 55 percent — in 2014 were connected to drug crimes, according to NYCHA.

Twenty percent were for gun charges, 10 for sex crimes, 10 for violent crimes like murder and assault and five for other offenses, Farber said.

During the hearing, Torres said NYCHA should streamline the eviction process to better protect its residents, but said it should balance safety concerns with the need to offer fair access to public housing.

Convicted felons wait as many as six years, depending on their crime, to be eligible to live in public housing again, Torres said. For those who don’t have other options, this lack of housing can send them back to a life of crime, he said.

“If you have no stability in housing, if you have no stability in employment and if you are disconnecting people from society, they are going to be more inclined to re-offend. So I feel like NYCHA’s policy is part of the problem,” Torres said.