Danny the Steward of Orchard Street Faces Eviction, Pleads for Help

Posted on: July 25th, 2017 at 9:44 am by

Photo: Keri D.

While Nathan might be the mayor of upper Orchard Street, south of the Delancey divide, that title belongs to a bearded man named Danny Coffey. You’ve definitely crossed paths with him, forever patrolling the block between Grand and Broome Streets, often whistling loudly to himself.

Danny is now in a tough spot and seeks community support. Local friends and advocates are trying to get the word out about his housing drama. A resident of the Baruch Houses for more than a decade, the local fixture is reportedly on the precipice of eviction. On the surface, the problem seems simple; he doesn’t have a lease and is in housing court trying to defend himself against the powerful muscle of NYCHA. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Danny lived with his longtime girlfriend, and eventually became caretaker until her death three years ago. Since he wasn’t listed on the “family composition” as required by NYCHA, he can’t remain in the apartment.

Danny does not have a lawyer, as is so often the case, and is hoping some media exposure might benefit his plight. Even though the New York City Council passed the long-stalled right-to-counsel bill on Thursday to guarantee free legal services to low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court. The plan, sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, will reportedly be phased in over the next five years according to zip code, which is probably too late for Danny.

His next court date is slated for August 2.

One of the neighbors helping Danny sums up the situation as follows:

He got caught up in the stringent rules of NYCHA housing. He was caretaker of a dying woman but she didn’t put him on “family composition” which is the only thing that would have given him the right to remain in his home. Sadly, Danny is being punished for her error. And he is a man who works everyday and is on verge of homelessness. Though he is such a part of the community, helping residents and businesses, he’ll need to leave the community with no public housing options.

In addition, the fact that people in housing court aren’t entitled to court-appointed attorney leaves them very vulnerable. They don’t know their rights and the processes and are intimidated by NYCHA to settle cases and leave, adding to homeless crisis. There are some pro bono legal organizations but they are overwhelmed and I’ve learned a single man are the lowest priority.

Danny spends most of his waking hours on Orchard Street, looking after the block, as he has been, for years. He’s the janitor/superintendent of a couple buildings nearby, and oftentimes holds “estate sales” when tenants move out.

“Danny isn’t a ‘homeless crisis,’ he is the face of a failure of this city to take care of its people,” another advocate, who wanted to remain anonymous, tells us.

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