Community groups, neighbors, and now a local lawmaker are rallying around a woman and her two children after a stressful experience with a Kingston building inspector who told the family they needed to leave their home because it is too small.
What You Need To Know
- A family of three was told to leave their apartment because it was too small
- Mayor Steve Noble said the family was not evicted, but “encouraged” to vacate
- Legislator Abe Uchitelle questioned the city’s actions: “I think the city got it wrong.”
On Monday, an Ulster County legislator visited the rented apartment on Downs Street and said afterward that Kingston city officials were in the wrong when they told the family they should leave.
On September 11 — the fourth day of school — the landlord and a city inspector informed Isaura Riveramarin that she and her daughters, ages 5 and 10 months, are violating occupancy regulations and must leave.
They left housing information pamphlets and a public assistance request form with the family, but no official documentation of the interaction. Years from now, the record will show only that the family decided to move, not that the city lobbied for the family to move for occupancy reasons.
It annoyed Riveramarin that neither city administrators, nor any common council members, visited the home to make a discretionary judgement on whether the family could wait out the COVID-19 pandemic in the apartment, especially since the city is in a housing crisis.
"That [the living conditions] should be the first thing that they should see before they just send you out and make your life miserable,” Riveramarin said during a conversation Monday with Ulster County Legislator Abe Uchitelle — the only elected official to visit the home so far — in her backyard.
Uchitelle, who represents part of Kingston, was polite in his criticism of the city’s decision.
"I know that everybody at the city is doing their best, and want the best for Isaura,” Uchitelle said. “I think, at this moment and in this instance, they got it wrong."
Uchitelle said he did not see code violations nor any hazard that would require the family to vacate.
Kingston Mayor Steve Noble is still backing his building inspector. He stressed in an email to Spectrum News that the city inspector did not evict the family, but “encouraged the family to contact a variety of social services and housing agencies in Kingston, and asked that she begin looking for another place.”
He added that despite an informal written agreement to leave by October 31, that Riveramarin said she felt was “forced” and “demanding,” she does not actually have to leave.
“It is my understanding that she was never told that she needed to vacate the apartment by a certain date by our staff,” Noble wrote.
Uchitelle took issue with the mention of “encouragement.” He said another of his constituents had a similar experience recently when the city asked that person’s family to vacate, also for an occupancy violation.
"I'm a little confused about the city's policy of giving suggestions to tenants that they should try to find another place, even if they're in compliance based on code, which I believe they are,” Uchitelle said. “I would ask that the city clarify their policy about giving these types of suggestions, because for Isaura, this is definitely the experience of an eviction."
Riveramarin said that even though city officials have since said the family does not have to leave by October 31, she plans on leaving to avoid further run-ins with her landlord.
She said representatives from the Ulster County Department of Social Services will meet with the family to discuss housing options.