Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Couple says Scranton violated rights in condemning buildings 

A Scranton couple filed a federal lawsuit against the city and several licensing and housing inspectors, alleging two apartment buildings they own were illegally condemned without providing them proper notice or a chance to repair the structures.

Zvi Shkedi and his wife, Sarah, of Madison Avenue, who are Hasidic Jews, allege they’ve been subjected to retaliation and religious discrimination by city officials, who they claim have unfairly enforced city ordinances against them.

At issue is the city’s condemnation of two properties the couple own, an eight-unit apartment complex at 510-512 Pittston Ave. and a four-unit building at 417-419 Harrison Ave.

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 29, 2013, a city housing inspector condemned the Pittston Avenue property and ordered its electrical meter be removed after deeming it to be in such disrepair that it posed a danger to the community. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Shkedi was notified before the action was taken.

The couple appealed the condemnation to the city’s housing appeals board, which on Nov. 18 reversed the condemnation and ordered the city to restore the utilities. The city failed to abide by the ruling, however, which has prevented them from making repairs.

The couple allege that on Nov. 19, the city, in retaliation for them contesting its actions at the Pittston Avenue property, condemned their other property on Harrison Avenue. The action was again taken without providing them notice. The suit says the couple has been unable to make repairs because the city insists they post a $10,000 performance bond, even though the housing appeals board did not require it.

The suit, filed by attorney Donald Brobst of Wilkes-Barre, alleges the city has more stringently enforced ordinances against Mr. and Mrs. Shekdi because of their religious beliefs. It also alleges violations of their right to due process.


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