Stereotypes Come In All Shapes And Sizes

November 25th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

The compliment. The two officers spent considerable time today at my apartment trying to help me to resolve an issue. They listened to me carefully and tried to understand what I was trying to explain to them. They informed me of my rights regarding a larceny/ stolen property report and indicated that it was up to the landlord to file the report since that was the landlord’s property that was stolen. They explained that the item that was stolen was probably stolen because it was an old unusable fire alarm that could be mistaken as a real one and therefore be a safety hazard though the object had been there, as I informed them, for 42 years. They were patient and traveled with me to several apartments so that I can explain our unusual situation in the building that some of the apartments did not include the foyer space as part of their rental while some do. The ones that include it are clearly indicated as such in two ways 1) with the apartment number indicated in front of their door which is not the case in apartments 4,5,8,9. 2) with the foyer area being identical in the apartments that do not include the foyer in their rent which is not the case on floors 4,5,8,9. The division between the two types of apartments in the building is obvious and the second officer at one point confirmed that no one is disputing any longer that considering what they’ve seen and heard from the maintenance manager that the space is part of our rental. The lead officer explained very patiently initially that he could not file a report because the foyer space- in his view- could possibly not be part of the rental and therefore it would not be breaking an entry if the landlord’s employees or representatives entered it. I took the time- as did the nice police officers- to visit other floors in the building to show the difference in the spaces where the floors were and weren’t part of the rentals. I did this in order to demonstrate that the foyer area was part of my rental space so that he could file the report since clearly someone had entered the foyer space without my consent. During this part of the visit the police officers were kind in demeanor and generous with their time.

The complaint. The lead police officer refused to allow me to file a report of illegal entry. Understandably he wanted to speak to the owner to find out whether the owner knew who had entered the apartment. I did not have the number on my cell phone and was able to get him that number from the maintenance manager and encouraged him to call. During the call the landlord said two things which very clearly changed the demeanor of the lead police officer towards me. The lead officer reported the two things that the landlord said casually in the conversation in a matter of fact way demonstrating that he had taken what the owner said at face value. 1) the landlord implied on the phone that the foyer space by our 8th floor elevator was not part of our rental by saying the tenant “can use the space if she wants to, I don’t care, I want her to be happy she’s a tenant.” While this sounded nice this was used by the police officer to justify that the owner had made clear that it was his space not part of my rental. In speaking this way to the police officer the landlord lied. It has been my rental space for over 40 years and no one from the owner’s offices have ever disputed my claims or any other claims to that space from the other rent stabilized tenants in the building. By the landlord wording it in an implicit way he was able to persuade the lead police officer without having to actually make a legal claim. Therefore the lead police officer substituted his judgment – that the landlord’s implication was a legal statement- for the law in order to prevent me from filing an illegal entry report. The landlord never explicitly stated whether the space was part of my rental or not despite the police officer explicitly asking whether the space was included in the rent. The lead police officer assumed based on the implicit response of the landlord that this was the case when legally it is not the case. But the second thing that was said by the landlord made the situation much worse. 2) According to the lead police officer I was labeled by the landlord as “always complaining”. Based on these two statements by the landlord, it is no wonder then that after the police officer got off the phone with the landlord he immediately started to treat me differently. After the call the lead police officer was combative, patronizing, made jokes at my expense, and was sarcastic.

For example, he sarcastically said “well let’s arrest the maintenance manager since he entered your apartment illegally when you first met him” based on a comment I had made that it was a repeated issue that the landlord’s representatives had entered my apartment illegally and one of them was the maintenance manager over a year ago. The lead officer also accused me of trying to misuse the police to bully the landlord based on the fact that I had used the word “rent stabilized” once in the entire hour long conversation to denote the difference between the apartments in which the rental included the foyer and which did not. He created and communicated to me an entire narrative out of thin air of my tenant relationship with the landlord in which I was a disgruntled tenant who was mad because the landlord was trying to evict me. He claimed I was trying to bully the landlord by using the police department unethically to make false claims against the landlord. This has not been the case at all and actually other than the random illegal entries to the apartment over the last few years- which I have previously handled internally out of respect for the landlord and his employees because I could at least track down who had been the person who entered and why- I have had little concerns with the landlord.

I was so insulted by his demeanor change and assumption that the landlord was speaking truthfully but making accusations against me that that I even contacted the maintenance manager to whom all complaints are sent and put him on speaker phone (letting him know I was doing so). I asked whether he would consider me a complainer. He said no. I asked whether I was one of the nicer tenants in the building. He said yes. I asked whether I contacted him a lot. He said no. I asked whether I sometimes go out of my way to help him by, for example, contacting him when we had a flood in the basement a few weeks ago that I noticed and sent him pictures. He said yes and that was very kind of me to do. I didn’t even have the landlords number on my cell phone which is further evidence that I do not call and complain regularly. Nonetheless, the lead police officer had taken the landlord’s word for me being a complainer and a liar about my legal use of the space and had clearly changed his demeanor with me to see me as a ne’er-do-well rather than a citizen worthy of knowing my rights. I felt extremely uncomfortable that I had to be defensive and it goes without saying I at times raised my voice mostly when the lead police officer became more patronizing telling me how “I am a nice lady” and so forth. The lead officer’s opinion on capitalism, rent stabilization, and political affiliation aside, I had someone enter my apartment illegally and I was being treated like I was the one who had done something wrong because a landlord hurled false accusations about me and the lead officer clearly had strong opinions and stereotypes about what he seems to think are trouble making rent stabilized tenants.

I am a chair of the board of trustees for a school for special needs students; I am the copresident of the local PTA; I am a PhD with two published books and two more book contracts in process; I am a mother of two young children ages 5 and 7; I am happily married for over 15 years. I am a law abiding citizen whose family has lived in the same place for 42 years and there are no court cases or police reports with my name on them in the local community or anywhere. I am friendly with the workers in the building and I am the tenant the super reaches out to if he needs to let someone in the building and can’t get there in time. I am the farthest thing from a trouble making rent stabilized tenant there could be and I am astonished to be treated in a demeaning way by someone who prior to the call with the landlord had taken me seriously and treated me with respect.

At some point he told me “ I didn’t interrupt you so don’t interrupt me by talking.” The astonishing part was that I hadn’t interrupted him prior to him having said that. I had my mouth closed for the entire preceding time before and after he started talking. I literally had to ask permission to speak again after a five minute tirade about why the landlord had rights regarding the stolen property and that the landlord was doing what was in the best interest of the tenants in the building and that regardless of whether it was an illegal entry it was the right thing to do for the item to be removed so I should be grateful that it was taken. When I was finally permitted to speak- literally I asked and was granted permission to speak- I asked simply what are my rights as a citizen if someone illegally enters my apartment but doesn’t take anything that is mine. He did not answer this question. Instead, he once again referred to the landlord’s implication as legal fact that the space was not part of my rental- though the landlord at no point actually made this claim because legally he cannot.

In sum. The landlord did not choose to pursue a stolen property report being filed. The police officer refused to allow me to file a report for illegal entry. After calling the maintenance manager and the owner, we have still not found out exactly who or why someone entered my apartment without any prior approval or any documentation that they had done so. No one at the owner’s office knows what happened. My rights as a citizen have been taken away because of the stereotypes used against me as a rent stabilized tenant and because of the harassment I received from the landlord by his implying his rights to space for which he does not have and for labeling me a complainer that triggered the stereotype in the mind of the otherwise previously very kind lead police officer. I would encourage the otherwise very kind lead officer to refrain from allowing his stereotypes and prejudices against rent stabilized tenant to affect the way he behaves with them. I am sure both officers are lovely people and that the lead officer had no idea his demeanor changed. However, on my end it was very clear and very insulting especially considering I still have no idea who entered my apartment and neither does the landlord.

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