The New York Police Department got an order kicking a family of four out of their Queens apartment by telling a judge it was a drug den — but the dealers had moved out seven months earlier.
A lawsuit to be filed in Brooklyn Federal Court on Tuesday details an egregious case of the NYPD’s use of the nuisance abatement law — a controversial tool in which cops are able to get a temporary order barring people from their homes without first giving them the opportunity to appear before a judge.
The bungled operation left Austria Bueno, 32, a housekeeper, crashing at a hotel and on a relative’s floor, beside her two sons and husband, for four nights, as they waited for their first court date.
“Everybody cried. Me, I was crying like a baby,” said Bueno. “I don’t deserve that. My kids don’t deserve that either.”
Her lawsuit, which cites the Daily News and ProPublica’s ongoing investigation into the NYPD’s misuse of the nuisance abatement law, seeks to have the legislation and its provision for secret lockout orders declared unconstitutional.
A new analysis by the Daily News has also found the number of cases filed by the NYPD has dropped substantially since the first investigation was published in February.
Bueno’s ordeal began before she even got to the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City. Police say a confidential informant purchased crack at her future apartment twice in January 2015. A subsequent search turned up crack, weapons and $21,500.
Bueno and her family moved into the apartment months later, in August 2015.
On Dec. 11, a Friday, Bueno returned home after picking up her sons — ages 6 and 15 — from school to find a stack of legal papers and two neon-colored stickers taped to her door saying anyone who entered would be arrested. She was told to come to court the following Tuesday.
That night, the Bueno family slept at a hotel for $208. The following three nights, the family slept on the living room floor of her mother-in-law.
Bueno said she missed three days of work, resulting in a reduced paycheck. Her husband also missed work, and her youngest son was unable to attend school one day because he couldn’t retrieve a clean school uniform.
Bueno’s suit alleges that the NYPD did not even bother to contact New York City Housing Authority to find out if their targets still lived in the home they were asking a judge to close — despite filing the request 10 months after the search. The NYPD still claimed the apartment “is currently being operated, occupied and used illegally.”