A Manhattan laundry owner and two apartment tenants filed a class-action suit in federal court on Wednesday charging the NYPD with misusing nuisance laws to bully hundreds of people into waiving their constitutional rights to avoid evictions.
The suit, filed by the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Virginia, targets laws that give officials the power to shut down a location used for criminal activity. It says the threat of closure is used in situations where there is no proof of wrongdoing to get people to comply with police demands.
One of the plaintiffs, Sung Cho, was allegedly pressured to allow police access to his security cameras and consent to future fines and searches after a 2013 police undercover sale of stolen electronics in his Inwood laundry.
Two Bronx residential tenants who joined the case were forced to exclude family members from their apartments after police drug searches that led to no criminal charges, because they didn’t want to face a court proceeding on short notice to evict everyone, the suit said.
One of the tenants was allegedly targeted although police found only crushed eggshells during their search, and the city later settled a wrongful arrest lawsuit.
“City attorneys churn out hundreds or even thousands of these actions every year, using form legal documents that are filled out based on stale and unreliable information provided by police,” the suit said. “City attorneys conduct no independent investigation to ensure that their allegations are true or that eviction is warranted.”
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department, said, “The complaint is under review.”