Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ripple Effects of a Messy Divorce: A Tenant’s Eviction 

Two police cars came screeching to a stop, and officers dashed into a low-rise building as panicked children came running out. Moments later, the children’s mother emerged in tears, her arms held back by two officers, as her daughter and sons wailed, neighbors cursed and passers-by stopped to shake their heads and stare.

That scene disrupted life on a normally placid street in Borough Park, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, in the heart of a Hasidic Jewish community usually known for being tightly knit. The woman, Soya Radin, 39, and her four children were being evicted, the latest twist in a protracted, torturous divorce battle that was not even her own.

For about two years, Ms. Radin had lived in the building, on 52nd Street, one of several properties that the divorcing couple, Chana and Simon Taub, have been fighting over. The Taubs’ divorce case, which began in 2005, gained notoriety after their own home in Borough Park was divided by court order with wallboard and plywood, with each warring spouse living on opposite sides of the makeshift wall.

Using several lawyers in several courts, the estranged couple argued bitterly and lengthily over the division of their assets, which included commercial and residential buildings, a summer house and their home in Borough Park.

A judge granted the Taubs’ divorce in April, but Ms. Taub was unhappy with the division of assets and planned to appeal.

Ms. Taub said her father-in-law had given her the three-story building on 52nd Street, a claim that Mr. Taub’s family contests.

The eviction of Ms. Radin, who is a friend of hers, was her ex-husband’s latest act of revenge, Ms. Taub said Tuesday. Both women said the eviction was illegal.

“It’s all coming from my husband,” Ms. Taub said shortly before court marshals appeared at Ms. Radin’s door. “He wants to harass her to get to me.”

Mr. Taub’s lawyer did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Ms. Radin moved into the two-bedroom apartment with her four children in 2009, after an invitation from Ms. Taub, and her rent was about $1,175.

By then, the building was in bankruptcy. Harassment from other tenants began almost immediately, Ms. Radin said, with neighbors allied with Mr. Taub hitting her and flooding the apartment above, causing parts of her ceiling to collapse.

Ms. Taub said she told Ms. Radin to begin paying a nominal rent of $3.99 beginning in March 2010 to protest the conditions in her apartment, though Ms. Radin did not pay. Soon after, a bankruptcy trustee began running the building. After about a year of Ms. Radin’s not paying rent, a judge ordered her evicted.

Mr. Taub’s sister, Pnina Kaufman, said Ms. Taub’s ownership of the building was meant to be temporary. Mr. Taub’s and Ms. Kaufman’s father lives in the same building.

Ms. Kaufman said Mr. Taub had arranged for Ms. Taub to be named the owner to shield his assets from a bankruptcy filing years ago.

On Tuesday, Ms. Radin’s apartment was strewn with clothes, the walls filthy and lined with cracks, with some sort of vegetation sprouting from the ceiling. Ms. Kaufman said Ms. Radin had refused the bankruptcy trustee entry to make repairs, a claim that Ms. Taub’s lawyer denied.

The eviction was marked by anguish and chaos, with Ms. Kaufman and her family members exchanging threats and insults with Ms. Taub and Ms. Radin’s children.

Ms. Radin was arrested on charges of obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As she was driven away in a police car, her four children, ages 11 to 16, stood on the sidewalk in tears, with Ms. Taub by their side.

The children were eventually driven in police cars to their grandmother’s home nearby.


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