Large Number of Families Evicted 1893

Non-Payment Of Rent
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The records of the local civil district courts show that the number of dispossess warrants
for non payment of rent issued during the past month is much greater than during any previous period of two months. The general financial stringency and consequent lack of employment for the laboring classes, is doubtless indirectly responsible for this unprecedented eviction of Brooklyn families.

In the Second district civil court alone, the jurisdiction of which, in view of its central location, Broadway and Sumner avenue, extends all over the city. Judge Patterson has disposed of between thirty and fifty landlord and tenant proceedings daily since August 1.

The major part of such actions have emanated from the Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-first, Twenty-sixth, Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth wards, portions of the city populated to a very large extent by the manual
laboring classes. Apartments in these neighborhoods are leased largely by a monthly contract, so that if the rent is not forthcoming on the first day of the month, the landlord, under the law, is entitled to the possession of his premises. The occupants, however, cannot be ejected without the usual court proceeding, but at the expiration of the time allowed by law after the service of the notice to move on the tenant, the magistrate must issue a dispossess warrant in the case, unless the tenant puts in an answer denying the alleged indebtedness, when it is customary for the court to grant an adjournment of the proceedings to give the
tenant an opportunity to employ counsel, summon witnesses, etc., in preparation for a trial of the action. The tenant, in the meantime, remains in undisturbed possession of the premises. The latter course, however, requires the employment of a lawyer by the tenant, and as, in the main, they are unable to pay the rent demanded, they cannot as a rule, afford the services of a lawyer. Therefore, the landlord, in ninety-nine out of every one hundred cases of this nature, gets the court's sanction to forcibly, if necessary, take possession of his premises. Previous to 1891 landlords could eject tenants who had failed to pay their rent at
two hours' notice. This was often a great hardship to the poor and Justice Petterson personally secured the passage of a law making it incumbent upon landlords to serve five days' notices upon tenants before dispossess proceedings could be instituted. Even now,
despite this five days' notice, tenants invariably urge justices to grant them more time. Legally, however, the magistrates have no power, providing the landlord appears in court in person to stay the dispossess warrant five minutes after the expiration of the five days' notice. That it is frequently done is not denied, but if the landlord insists upon the letter of the law, the justice must (in the dispossess warrant the day that the case is made returnable, the fifth day after the notice to move is served, in court, Judge McAdam of the new York superior court, whose rulings in landlord and tenant cases are generally accepted as authority, has said relative to this question:

"While it is a very humane act upon the part of a justice to allow a tenant additional time to move from his apartments, he is practically dispensing charity at the expense of another, which no one has the right to do. The practical thing for the justice to do is to pay the tenant's rent or hire him other rooms. This he has a right to do. Such an act would be truly charitable, as well as unobjectionable, as any one has the legal right to be charitable with his own. The statute points out the plain duty of the justice, who has no legal right to depart from its mandatory command."

Constables usually serve the papers in landlord and tenant proceedings, and landlords make it a habit to permit the officiating constable to appear in the cases for them when the actions come before the magistrates. In the eyes of the law such officers have no standing in cases of that nature, and are only allowed to answer for the landlord, by courtesy of the court. In view thereof where a tenant pleads for more time, in the absence of the landlord, the justice could lawfully grant an extension. It is customary, however, for the court, if the circumstances warrant it to turn to the constable with some such request as this:

"Will you give this man or woman", as the case may be "two or three days to vacate the premises?"

Except in rare instances the magisterial request is readily complied with. Where the landlords push the cases in person the justices' often repeated response to the tearful pleadings of women with babes in their arms and men out of employment, is:

"I am powerless to help you. You'll have to make some arrangement with your landlord."

Frequently the appearance of a lawyer in behalf of the tenant secures an unexpected victory. Here's a case in point:

In common with a score of other unfortunate non rent paying tenants, Mrs. Bartelo Mayo, a Hebrew woman, had until 3 o'clock on the first day of a recent month to explain to Justice Petterson why she should not be dispossessed from the first floor of 115 Hamburg avenue. The owner of the premises, Mrs. Angelina Anton, despite the tearful entreaties of her tenant, insisted upon gaining possession of the apartments.

"I have four small children and not a penny in the house," Mrs. Mayo told the court between her sobs. "Please grant me a few days' time." she entreated.

"My dear woman, I feel for you," the justice remarked. "but I must give judgment for the owner of the premises, unless you put in an answer, and you'll have to hire a lawyer for that."

"A lawyer, sir! Why I can't buy food for my starving children," Mrs. Mayo responded, dejectedly.

"Here, your honor." Counselor John Roesch, who chanced to be in court on another case, Interjected hurriedly: "I'll appear for the woman; permit me to take the papers."

"in the petition, your honor." the philanthropic lawyer remarked, after scrutinizing the documents in the case, "it is not set up whether the premises were let by verbal or written agreement, and I move to dismiss the proceedings on that ground."

Such proved to be the case. It was an important omission that really appears in the papers as a majority of landlord and tenant cases, through either the ignorance or carelessness of the constable who draws up the documents. As a matter of fact landlord and tenant papers are seldom lawfully correct, owing to the same cause, and a bright lawyer can pick out grounds for dismissal at a glance. In the above case Mr. Roesch's motion was granted and the proceeding was dismissed. This, of course, necessitated the landlord taking out new papers, which, ipao facto, gave the tenant five days more possession of the apartments.

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Website: The History
Article Name: Large Number of Families Evicted 1893
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle September 3, 1893
Time & Date Stamp: