Davis v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 18-CV-459 (JPO)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtJ. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge
Citation379 F.Supp.3d 237
Parties Chiffon DAVIS, on behalf of herself and a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY and Oyeshola Olatoye, in her personal capacity, and in her official capacity as Chairperson of the New York City Housing Authority, Defendants.
Docket Number18-CV-459 (JPO)
Decision Date29 March 2019

379 F.Supp.3d 237

Chiffon DAVIS, on behalf of herself and a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY and Oyeshola Olatoye, in her personal capacity, and in her official capacity as Chairperson of the New York City Housing Authority, Defendants.

18-CV-459 (JPO)

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

Signed March 29, 2019


379 F.Supp.3d 242

James Patrick Batson, Law Office of James P. Batson, Katonah, NY, for Plaintiff.

Peter Jay Kurshan, Mark Adam Weissman, Miriam Skolnik, Wendy L. Prince, Herzfeld & Rubin, P.C., New York, NY, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge:

379 F.Supp.3d 243

Plaintiff Chiffon Davis brings this putative class action against Defendants the New York City Housing Authority ("NYCHA") and the Chairperson of NYCHA, Oyeshola Olatoye, in connection with their alleged failure to provide adequate heating to residents of NYCHA public housing buildings.

Defendants now move to dismiss the operative complaint, asserting that this action is essentially "an attempt to enforce the ‘warranty of habitability,’ " which cannot be done through federal law. (Dkt. No. 23 at 3.) For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

The following facts are taken from the First Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 16 ("FAC")) and are presumed true for the purposes of this motion.

Defendant NYCHA is the City of New York's public housing agency. With the assistance of federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), NYCHA provides subsidized housing to over half a million residents of New York City in over 2600 buildings. (FAC ¶ 12.) Plaintiff Chiffon Davis ("Davis") "lives in an apartment in the Andrew Jackson Houses, a NYCHA-owned and operated public-housing development in the Bronx." (FAC ¶ 14.)

In the winter of early 2018, New York City "suffered multiple ‘arctic blasts’ of freezing temperatures." (FAC ¶¶ 15, 18, 27.) Due to inadequate heating, the "temperature in [Davis's] apartment seldom exceeded 50 degrees" for weeks during this period, and "was often freezing or below freezing." (FAC ¶¶ 15–16.) Specifically, during and after the storms of March 2 and March 7, 2018, the estimated temperature within her apartment was "approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit." (FAC ¶ 18.) During this period, Davis's apartment would also occasionally be left without hot water, including for a four-day stretch in February of 2018. (FAC ¶ 19.)

Davis alleges that the heating system in her apartment complex cannot maintain adequate heat in her apartment during periods of sub-freezing outdoor temperatures, and NYCHA has not made reasonable efforts to ensure that the temperature in her apartment "remains above minimum standards of habitability." (FAC ¶¶ 22–23.) Furthermore, Davis alleges that this is a recurring problem in NYCHA's buildings, and causes "hundreds of thousands" of residents in public housing complexes to "suffer[ ] physical discomfort, emotional distress, increased illness, and decreased hygiene, as well as deprivation of rent paid for living conditions that do not meet minimum standards of habitability." (FAC ¶¶ 21, 24–25, 37.)

According to Davis, certain policies and practices of Defendants have caused this public-housing heating crisis, specifically insufficient levels of boiler maintenance staff, a "policy of prematurely closing heating maintenance request tickets" to create the appearance that NYCHA is effectively handling the crisis, and failure to properly train employees. (FAC ¶ 45; see FAC ¶¶ 38–53.)

On January 18, 2018, Davis initiated this action against NYCHA and its Chairperson, Oyeshola Olatoye ("Olatoye"). (Dkt. No. 1.) The operative complaint was filed on March 8, 2018, on behalf of a putative class of residents of NYCHA-owned public housing. (FAC ¶ 54.) The First Amended Complaint asserts three claims for relief, alleging: (1) deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1437 and applicable regulations, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (FAC ¶¶ 60–75); (2) violation of substantive due process

379 F.Supp.3d 244

rights under the Constitution, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (FAC ¶¶ 76–94); and seeking (3) a declaratory judgment that the residents' federal rights to public housing in compliance with minimum temperature requirements have been violated, under 28 U.S.C. § 2201 (FAC ¶¶ 95–102).

Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). (Dkt. Nos. 18 & 22.)1

II. Legal Standards

In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead sufficient factual allegations "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and "draw[ ] all inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Allaire Corp. v. Okumus , 433 F.3d 248, 249–50 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).

The burden is on the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that subject matter jurisdiction exists. See Makarova v. United States , 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must accept as true all the material factual allegations contained in the complaint, but a court is "not to draw inferences from the complaint favorable to plaintiffs." J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Sch. , 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004). "A district court properly dismisses an action under Rule 12(b)(1) if the court ‘lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.’ " Garcia v. Lasalle Bank NA. , No. 16 Civ. 3485, 2017 WL 253070, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2017) (quoting Cortlandt Street Recovery Corp. v. Hellas Telecomm'ns S.A.R.L. , 790 F.3d 411, 416–17 (2d Cir. 2015) ).

III. Discussion

Defendants seek dismissal of Davis's First Amended Complaint in its entirety. The Court addresses Defendants' motion in five parts, delineated by the specific claim or demand at issue: (A) the § 1983 claim premised on the violation of rights under federal law; (B) the § 1983 claim premised on violations of substantive due process; (C) the declaratory judgment claim; (D) claims against individual Defendant Olatoye; and (E) the demand for punitive damages.

A. Section 1983 Claim Premised on Right Under Federal Law

In her first claim, Davis alleges that "NYCHA and Olatoye have deprived Plaintiff and class members of the right to a safe and habitable heated home in compliance with federal law and federal regulations," actionable under § 1983. (FAC ¶ 63.) Section 1983 provides a cause of action against persons who, acting under color of state law, subject individuals to the "deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The federal law securing the right that has been violated, according to Davis, is supplied by the United States Housing Act of 1937, 50 Stat. 888,

379 F.Supp.3d 245

42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq. In particular, Davis relies on § 1437(a) —which sets out the declaration of policy of federal housing law—and § 1437d(l)—which governs the nature of leases that must be employed by public housing agencies. (FAC ¶¶ 65–67.) And the federal regulation on which Davis relies, 24 C.F.R. § 5.703(g), requires that HUD-funded public housing comply with "state and local housing laws and regulations." (FAC ¶ 69.) Davis contends that the failure of NYCHA housing to comply with "NYC Administrative Code § 27-20[2]9 and New York City Health Code § 131.07 regarding the minimum acceptable temperature for an occupied housing unit during the winter months" thus violates 24 C.F.R. § 5.703(g), and the resultant deprivation of rights is actionable under § 1983. (FAC ¶¶ 69–73.)

Defendants argue that this first claim must be dismissed because the statutory and regulatory provisions invoked "do not create a statutory right to adequate housing which can be enforced in federal court through an action" under § 1983. (Dkt. No. 23 at 4; see id. at 8.)

"[ Section] 1983 actions may be brought against state actors to enforce rights created by federal statutes as well as by the Constitution." Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe , 536 U.S. 273, 279, 122 S.Ct. 2268, 153 L.Ed.2d 309 (2002). "In order to seek redress through § 1983, however, a plaintiff must assert the violation of a federal right , not merely a violation of federal law. " Blessing v. Freestone , 520 U.S. 329, 340, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997). In order for a particular statutory provision to be enforceable through § 1983, then, the statutory provision at issue must "give[ ] rise...

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11 practice notes
  • Seidemann v. Prof'l Staff Cong. Local 2334, 18 Civ. 9778 (KPF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 3, 2020
    ...of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws’ of the United States." Davis v. N.Y.C. Housing Auth. , 379 F. Supp. 3d 237, 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ). Defendants do not concede that they acted under color of state law or qualify as state ......
  • United States v. Rose, 03-CR-1501 (VEC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 24, 2019
    ...of Prisons to process his release, is sufficient and not longer than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing for Mr. Robinson.379 F.Supp.3d 237 III. CONCLUSIONFor the foregoing reasons, Defendant Junior Robinson's motion for a reduced sentence of time served is GRANTED pursuant to § 40......
  • Mercer v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 1:21-cv-10503-GHW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 8, 2022
    ...Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq., creates a federal right that is enforceable under § 1983. See Davis v. N.Y.C. Horn. Auth., 379 F.Supp.3d 237, 244-49 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (holding that 24 C.F.R. § 5.703 and certain subsections of the Housing Act do not provide an actionable right under § 1......
  • Mercer v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 22-CV-3202 (LTS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 16, 2022
    ...includes a private right of action or creates a federal right that is enforceable under Section 1983. See Davis v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 379 F.Supp.3d 237, 244-49 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (holding that 24 C.F.R. § 5.703 and certain subsections of the Housing Act do not provide an actionable right unde......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Seidemann v. Prof'l Staff Cong. Local 2334, 18 Civ. 9778 (KPF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 3, 2020
    ...of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws’ of the United States." Davis v. N.Y.C. Housing Auth. , 379 F. Supp. 3d 237, 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ). Defendants do not concede that they acted under color of state law or qualify as state ......
  • United States v. Rose, 03-CR-1501 (VEC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 24, 2019
    ...of Prisons to process his release, is sufficient and not longer than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing for Mr. Robinson.379 F.Supp.3d 237 III. CONCLUSIONFor the foregoing reasons, Defendant Junior Robinson's motion for a reduced sentence of time served is GRANTED pursuant to § 40......
  • Mercer v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 1:21-cv-10503-GHW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 8, 2022
    ...Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. § 1437 et seq., creates a federal right that is enforceable under § 1983. See Davis v. N.Y.C. Horn. Auth., 379 F.Supp.3d 237, 244-49 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (holding that 24 C.F.R. § 5.703 and certain subsections of the Housing Act do not provide an actionable right under § 1......
  • Mercer v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 22-CV-3202 (LTS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 16, 2022
    ...includes a private right of action or creates a federal right that is enforceable under Section 1983. See Davis v. N.Y.C. Hous. Auth., 379 F.Supp.3d 237, 244-49 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (holding that 24 C.F.R. § 5.703 and certain subsections of the Housing Act do not provide an actionable right unde......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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