Morales v. Related Mgmt. Co.

Decision Date02 December 2015
Docket NumberNo. 13-CV-8191 (KMK),13-CV-8191 (KMK)
PartiesELIAS MORALES, Plaintiff, v. RELATED MANAGEMENT COMPANY, LP d/b/a/ ARMORY PLAZA SENIOR HOUSING, et al. Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York

ELIAS MORALES, Plaintiff,
v.
RELATED MANAGEMENT COMPANY,
LP d/b/a/ ARMORY PLAZA SENIOR HOUSING, et al.
Defendants.

No. 13-CV-8191 (KMK)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

December 2, 2015


OPINION AND ORDER

Appearances:

Elias Morales
White Plains, NY
Pro Se Plaintiff

Andrew Leslie Margulis, Esq.
Kristen Lee Molloy, Esq.
Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley
New York, NY
Counsel for Defendants Related Management
Company, LP d/b/a Armory Plaza Senior
Housing, Denise Velez, Armory Manager, and
Armory Plaza Senior Housing

Jennifer Ellen Blain, Esq.
Leigh Aaron Wasserstrom, Esq.
Assistant United States Attorneys for the
Southern District of New York
New York, NY
Counsel for Defendants Sponso by Housing
and Urban Development, HUD-VASH
Housing Program for Veterans, and Robin
Bell

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KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge:

Pro se Plaintiff Elias Morales ("Plaintiff") filed the instant Amended Complaint against Related Management Company, LP, d/b/a/ Armory Plaza Senior Housing, Armory Manager, as individual and other members of Related Management Company LP, and Armory Plaza Senior Housing (collectively, the "Armory Defendants"); Denise Velez ("Velez"); and the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") and Robin Bell ("Bell") (collectively, the "Federal Defendants"), alleging various constitutional and statutory violations arising from the rejection of Plaintiff's application for an apartment at Armory Plaza, an affordable housing complex in White Plains, New York.1 Liberally construed, the Amended Complaint alleges violations of Plaintiff's due process rights, violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. (the "FHA"), and a claim for relief pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq., 701 et seq. (the "APA"). (See Pl.'s Am. Compl. ("Am. Compl.") (Dkt. No. 6).) Before the Court is the Federal Defendants' Motion To Dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (See Mot. To Dismiss ("Mot.") (Dkt. No. 41).) For the following reasons, the Federal Defendants' Motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, opposition papers, and the documents attached thereto, and are taken as true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motion. Plaintiff is 66 years of age and a Vietnam War veteran. (Am. Compl. ¶ III.C.) Plaintiff was a forensic psychologist for 30 years before he suffered a stroke, after which he was "placed

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in the HUD-VASH for wartime veterans and veterans with medical conditions." (Id.)2 In December 2009, Plaintiff and his wife applied for an apartment at Armory Plaza. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that at that time Velez, the property manager of Armory Plaza, "started the formation of the contractual process and background checks." (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Velez was "impressed with Plaintiff['s] perfect rental history," and explained that Plaintiff and his wife would be placed on a waiting list. (Id.)

Plaintiff also alleges that he "reminded [] Velez[] that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development [was] responsible for screening." (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Ms. Danko ("Danko"), the case manager for the Section 8 HUD-VASH program, is responsible for screening all families "in accordance with V.A. screening criteria," and the "Public Housing Authority" does not have "the authority to screen any potentially eligible family members or deny assistance for any grounds permitted under 24 C[.]F[.]R[.] 982.552." (Id.; see also Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. To Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n") 11 (Dkt. No. 44).)3

Velez "rented the room [that Plaintiff and his wife wanted] to someone else without [a] due process hearing." (Am. Compl. ¶ III.C.) Along with his papers filed in opposition to the instant Motion, Plaintiff attaches a letter dated October 29, 2013 from Velez to Plaintiff informing him that his application for housing had been rejected because he did "not me[e]t the

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standard screening criteria established by the owner." (Pl.'s Opp'n 21.) In particular, Velez indicated that Plaintiff's "documented rental payment history (or other documented payment history) shows that [Plaintiff had] not made consistent and timely payments." (Id.) The letter explains that the decision "was based in whole or in part on information obtained from CoreLogic Safe Rent." (Id.) Moreover, the letter informed Plaintiff that he has the right to receive a copy of the information contained in his credit file and to "dispute with the credit reporting agency the accuracy or completeness of any information in the consumer report furnished by the agency." (Id.) Finally, the letter notified Plaintiff that he has "the right to respond in writing or . . . contact the site within [14] days of [the] letter to request a meeting to discuss [the] decision," and if Plaintiff is an individual with disabilities, he has "the right to inform [Armory Plaza] of this fact and request reasonable accommodations in nonessential policies and practices to provide [him] equal opportunity and to participate in the informal hearing process." (Id. at 22.) Plaintiff claims that on December 19, 2013, Danko told Plaintiff that it was determined that he and his wife no longer "me[]t [the] HUD-VASH program." (Am. Compl. Attachment at 1.)

Plaintiff claims that in rejecting his request for an apartment at Armory Plaza, both Velez and Bell, the coordinator for HUD-VASH at the Montrose Veterans Administration, "did not follow[] the HUD-VASH pro[to]col." (Id.) According to Plaintiff, "[t]he HUD-VASH coordinator and case manager [are] the key [p]oint[s] of [c]ontact . . . between [Plaintiff], the medical center (Montrose)[,] the [Public Housing Authority,] . . . and the landlord." (Id.) Plaintiff complains that he was "not provided representation," (id. at 2), did not have "the opportunity to participate in behind the back door planning," (id.), and was "given information [that was] different from other applicants," (Pl.'s Opp'n 10). Moreover, Plaintiff states that

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Defendants' "actions were done with malice[,] fraud[,] [and] deliberate oppression." (Am. Compl. ¶ V; see also Pl.'s Opp'n 4.) In particular, Plaintiff claims that the CoreLogic Report does not reflect any "adverse issues." (Pl.'s Sur-Reply to Further Mot. To Dismiss by Resp't ("Pl.'s Reply") 3 (Dkt. No. 48).) Finally, Plaintiff alleges that the "agency" is biased, and therefore, his failure to "exhaust[]" should be excused. (Am. Compl. ¶ V.)

As a result of Defendants' alleged actions Plaintiff "suffered [and] sustained general damages," including the fact that he had to "research, file[,] and contact other senior housings," and that he "suffered psychological issues, sleep deprivation[,] . . . [and] was not able to sustain the pain and suffering and lack of safety." (Id. ¶ IV; see also Pl.'s Opp'n 4.) Plaintiff requests monetary and injunctive relief. Specifically, Plaintiff requests $2,000,000 in damages, that Defendants pay Plaintiff's costs for storage and other costs Plaintiff incurred, and that Defendants refrain from "any discriminatory [and] violative acts against Plaintiff and [his] wife both now [and] in the future." (Am. Compl. ¶ V; see also Pl.'s Opp'n 4.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on November 15, 2013. (Dkt. No. 2.) On November 21, 2013, the Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. No. 4.) On December 17, 2013, the Honorable Loretta A. Preska, Chief Judge of this Court, issued an Order directing Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Order To Amend (Dkt. No. 5).) The Order stated, in relevant part, that Plaintiff's Complaint failed to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) and did "not make clear whether he took . . . steps [to challenge the information that CoreLogic Safe Rent provided to Defendants]," and explained that Plaintiff could not "assert a due process violation if he fail[ed] to pursue an available review process." (Id. at 3, 5.) Moreover, the Order explained that while Plaintiff asserted "that the agency showed

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'bias' towards him," he "fail[ed] to explain on what grounds the agency showed bias, and he [did] not allege any facts supporting that allegation." (Id. at 5.) Accordingly, the Order directed Plaintiff to "submit an amended complaint that provides facts explaining what occurred after he received the rejection notice and the nature and grounds of his allegation of bias." (Id.)

On December 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 6.) Pursuant to a Scheduling Order issued after a Pre-Motion Conference on October 8, 2014, (Dkt. Nos. 33, 36), the Federal Defendants filed the instant Motion To Dismiss the Amended Complaint and accompanying papers on December 22, 2014. (Dkt. Nos. 41-43.) Plaintiff submitted his papers in opposition to the Motion on December 31, 2014, to which he attached, among other things, the aforementioned letter from Velez dated October 29, 2013 denying Plaintiff's application for housing at Armory Plaza, documents from CoreLogic Safe Rent, a Housing Discrimination Complaint, a chart titled "HUD-VASH Program Structure," and HUD regulations. (Dkt. No. 44.) Plaintiff also submitted a letter dated February 5, 2015 to the Court, to which he attached a letter dated January 14, 2012 from Plaintiff and his wife to the manager of Armory Plaza and a Supreme Court Case, Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346 (2014) (per curiam). (Dkt. No. 45.) The Federal Defendants filed their reply on March 6, 2015, (Dkt. No. 46), and Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on March 17, 2015, (Dkt. No. 48). Plaintiff also filed a letter dated June 30, 2015, alerting the Court to the Supreme Court's decision Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., 135 S. Ct. 2507 (2015). (Dkt. No. 53.)

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II.
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