PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – A Peekskill public housing resident has served Peekskill officials with a notice of claim over what she says is a pattern of illegal treatment by the city's Housing Authority.
Sharon "Sandy" Allen has been fighting the city since 2009 over what she says is a pattern of harassment and retaliation by city officials, including termination of employment and efforts to evict her from her home. She is the claimant in the case along with her daughter Michelle and Darrell Davis, a Westchester civil rights activist and talk radio host.
The notice of claim is directed at the management of the Peekskill Housing Authority, the Peekskill Police Department and the City of Peekskill.
Allen is a resident of the the Dunbar Heights housing complex and a former Peekskill Housing Authority employee. She said she has withstood a pattern of abuse that started when she was let go from her housing job in January 2012. As she fought the dismissal in court she began receiving what she claims were illegal eviction notices from Harold Phipps, executive director of the Housing Authority.
At Monday's Common Council meeting, Allen told council members that she had been trying to get help since 2009.
"I have been served seven illegal evictions and nobody is helping me, except Mr. Smith [her lawyer] and Mr. Davis," Allen said. I ask the mayor and council members for help and I cry and I get the same look, a blank look."
Allen claims that her car was vandalized several times since her employment was terminated, and that police did not adequately investigate the matter. The claim also alleges that the city government did not adequately work to make sure the Housing Authority had a functioning board of commissioners and that the board itself did not follow its bylaws. Commissioners are appointed by the city manager, and Mayor Mary Foster has insisted that she and the Common Council have no control over such appointments.
The claim was served by attorney Geoffrey Smith of Hyatt Smith Associates in White Plains. Smith said the eviction appeal process has not been handled correctly by the Housing Authority, since it did not offer Allen the right to an appeal proceeding through the Housing Authority. The evictions were dismissed this month in City Court.
"The judge said that since they didn't tell her she had that alternative, he wouldn't let them come to that court," Smith said. "And that's not only a big victory for Sandy, but it sets up the proper procedure for when the Housing Authority wants evictions. They can't get a warrant of eviction without going to the City Court, and they can't get that without going through that first step."
City spokesman Bob Knight said he was unable to comment on pending litigation.