Kingston evicting tenants of controversial boarding house; owner files suit under federal Fair Housing Act
KINGSTON, N.Y. >> The city is in the process of evicting the tenants remaining in a West Chestnut Street boarding house that has been deemed illegal, even as the property owner has filed a federal lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act.
Mayor Steve Noble said the owner of the house at 106 W. Chestnut St. was notified last month that the city would post the building as illegally occupied on Jan. 27. He said it was hoped the owner would work with tenants to find new housing before that time.
“It is our understanding that there are still individuals in the building,” Noble said in an email Tuesday. “The city is in the process of working to evict the current tenants. We have been extremely accommodating to the building owner and have been working with the [Ulster County] Department of Social Services to make sure that all tenants are informed of their options. This work will be ongoing.”
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Third Judicial Department, ruled Dec. 8 that the building could not be used as a boarding house under Kingston’s zoning code. The court said arguments made by property owner Tri-Serendipity LLC lacked merit to overturn a lower court’s decision.
Tri-Serendipity had challenged a June 14, 2016, ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Henry Zwack, leading to the appeals decision. In his ruling, Zwack agreed with a decision by the Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals that the West Chestnut Street building could not be used as a boarding house under the city’s zoning code.
The house is in a residential neighborhood that is zoned for single-family homes.
While the city is moving forward with evicting tenants, a lawsuit has been filed in federal court arguing the boarding house is legal under the federal Fair Housing Act because it serves disabled individuals.
“This house has never had anything but disabled living here,” Joseph Sangi, principal of Tri-Serendipity LLC, said Tuesday. He said group homes that serve disabled individuals are allowed in any neighborhood, regardless of zoning codes, under the federal act. And he said the city is well aware of that.
Sangi declined to comment further.
Noble said the city has been provided with a copy of the lawsuit, which he said falsely alleges the city discriminated against tenants of the West Chestnut Street home “who suffer from undisclosed disabilities.” He said the city’s corporation counsel was reviewing the matter and would respond.
“The city’s actions with regard to 106 West Chestnut have been lawful and appropriate and in no way has the city discriminated against any disabled individual,” Noble said. “The initial notification to the property owner that his proposed use violated the city code occurred while the property was vacant. The property owner leased space to allegedly disabled individuals only after being notified that his proposed use was not permitted under the city’s zoning code.”
Noble added that tenants were allowed by the property owner to continue to move in despite decisions from the city Zoning Board of Appeals and the state Supreme Court and its Appellate Division, all of which agreed the boarding house was illegal.
“As such, the hardship to the allegedly disabled residents who now have to vacate the premises was caused solely by the property owner rather than the city of Kingston,” Noble said. He said the city will continue to make sure anyone displaced from the building has access to necessary housing assistance and services.
The 14-bedroom house has 33 beds.
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