DT Yes, how're you doing? I'm David Thornton of Protective Services.
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW
BETWEEN DAVID THORNTON
OF PROTECTIVE SERVICES FOR ADULTS (PSA)
AND BRIGITTE PICART, ON DECEMBER 30, 1998
DT I'm here about your rent situation. How are you doing? Am I disturbing you at a bad time?
BP No, it's all right.
DT OK. Actually the judge made a referral to our eviction super- visor Mr. Knight, I don't know if you talked to him, and evident- ly there's some problem that's going on about your rent and about your eviction from here.
BP But what does Social Services have to do with it?
DT Because any time somebody's facing an eviction, we step in to see if we can help.
DT But she [the judge] was saying that the reason she called you was because I was not able to...
DT You was not coherent and you was not...
BP Yes but...
DT ... and you was not able to understand what the judge was saying...
BP But I did, I did, I'm not mentally impaired at all.
BP So from what I understand, PSA is for people who have mental problems, right?
DT Or physical.
BP But I'm healthy, you know.
BP And since there's no court order for that...
DT For what?
BP For appointing me...
DT I don't seem to understand. Your Landlord-Tenant court called me, you owe the landlord a certain amount of dollars...
BP Yes but I dispute that.
DT Regardless of whether you dispute that or not, there has been a petition in the landlord-tenant court for you to come to court, give them the reasons why you were not paying your rent because you're facing an eviction.
BP Yes, but I've been to court.
DT But the situation hasn't been resolved.
BP No it hasn't, but it has nothing to do with my mental situa- tion.
DT It doesn't, but the fact of the matter is that if you don't have a physical or mental impairment, they're still going to throw you out in the street.
BP Well, we have to go to court for that. So what do you...
DT I'm going to do an evaluation, ask you a few questions to get some information, and if it appears that you can advocate for yourself, then you're on your own.
BP But do you have a court order to do that?
DT I don't need a court order to do that. Once the case is referred to my agency, the case is activated, we give it to a social worker, we come out, we ask the questions, and if you don't need our services, which in this case I think you do because you're facing an eviction, [actual non sequitur] ...and it was clear that she has a mental problem.
BP Who says that?
DT Regardless, look, look, I'm here to help you. Now you can do the evaluation, or not. As simple as that. You can go through the court procedures, you can get your own lawyer and they can advocate for you and if you have the money you can pay them, if not they're going to serve you a 72-hour notice, the marshalls are going to come here, they're going to put you out and you're gonna be homeless.
BP I know that. But for you to help me you have to determine that I am mentally incompetent.
BP Ah, not necessarily. It's just for me to make an evaluation, see if you have enough money to pay...
BP Obviously I don't.
DT And you have no income. That's what appears on the record.
BP So it doesn't have anything to do... do you mind if I read this? [a printed questionnaire]
DT No you can't. Now if you'll sit down I'm gonna ask you the questions, and if you don't want to answer the questions then it'll make it more difficult for me to do my job, which will hinder the process that we're trying to do for you.
BP How come there's no court order for that? Can anybody decide "Ah, this person is not in her right mind, she's probably cra- zy..."
DT Are you crazy?
BP Ha ha. And what if I say yes? And what if I say no? You want to have a seat?
DT Yes. Are you crazy?
BP Why do you ask that? Do you have any expertise to determine who is crazy, who is not crazy?
DT What's your name?
BP Brigitte Picart. You don't have my name?
DT What's your date of birth?
BP November 12, 1952.
DT Your Social Security number?
DT How much rent do you pay?
BP $123.60 per week.
DT How much do you owe?
BP I'm not sure. I'm not up to date.
DT They served you court papers.
BP You want to know exactly?
DT I'd like to see some papers.
BP [takes her file out of filing cabinet] Let's see. I paid a lump sum... I paid a lump sum...
DT Can I see the paper right there? It's an Order to Show Cause.
BP What? This? It's my Answer. Are you a lawyer? What's your name?
DT Thornton. Back in July...
BP Here, let me show you something. (Showing the stipulation of July 8, 1998) You see, here, July 24 I paid $927. I paid that. The second part, I didn't pay.
DT And you know what happens because you didn't pay the other $927?
BP Yes! I'm fighting in court, all this. I know what I'm do- ing.
DT That, that you have in your hand, the stipulation, says that you had to pay $927 on or before 8/8/98 so you fell out of compliance...
BP I know, I know...
DT ...and if you read the bottom of that, you face a warrant for eviction.
BP I know that.
DT So now you owe $927 plus current rent. So we're talking about a rent at $123.60 per week since July...(does mental calcula- tion) ...we're talking about sixteen hundred dollars that you owe since July. Now you have no income. Is that correct?
DT How are you supporting yourself now? How are you eating?
BP I'm barely surviving. I have a friend who gives me a little money, enough to eat. I don't eat what I want but I eat.
DT What's today's date? Is that "Picart"?
BP Picart. P.I.C.A.R.T.
DT What's today's date, Miss Picart?
BP Today is the 30th of December.
DT And.. what year?
BP Oh! Are you kidding? I refuse to answer that question.
BP I know you ask me that question to know if I'm [in- audible].
DT What are you doing now?
DT What are you doing now?
BP I think that you're abusing me right now, so you keep on this tack and you're out the door in a minute.
DT How do you feel I'm abusing you?
BP I think that this mental health thing is an abuse of my rights.
DT But if you got evicted from this apartment, where would you go?
BP Let me ask you this: Do I have to be nuts in order for you to help me?
BP So why do you ask me questions to see if I'm mentally compe- tent?
DT Miss Picart, to be perfectly honest with you, when I leave here, if there is an order of eviction and you are not aware of what's going on, involuntary measures will be taken, and you would not believe the power that the Protective Services have in terms of coming here with a psychiatrist, with doctors to badger you. What I'm doing today is to eliminate all of that so you don't have to go through all of that.
BP You mean if...
DT It can be resolved the easy way or the hard way. I've been doing this job for nine years, trust me, I, I've seen the drama behind situations like this. I'm just trying to avoid you being put out in the street and having to go to a shelter. So I'm asking you: If you got evicted from this apartment, where would you go?
BP I have nowhere to go.
DT I'm not trying to play with your mind, I'm just trying to resolve this situation that can snowball into something that you couldn't get out of.
BP What were you saying about the easy way and the hard way?
DT The hard way is, the court will petition us, will give us... no, we'll petition the court, the court will give us an order to gain access to this apartment, and that entails a social worker, a psychiatrist, a warrant and the police, they can come in here, a psychiatrist will evaluate you to see exactly what your mental state is...
BP Do you do that with every tenant who faces eviction?
BP So why me?
DT Because you're appearing to be reluctant to answer my ques- tions, and my agency, which is a court certified agency, takes evictions, suicides and things of that nature as a priority, so my agency has to take drastic measures in order to resolve, whether or not you want to cooperate or not. If we feel that you're at risk...
BP At risk of eviction?
DT Yes, we don't want to see nobody on the street. It might sound crazy to you but every time they're facing an eviction they're more than willing to cooperate to resolve.
BP But I'm fighting the case in court so...
DT But the bottom line, the bottom line, Miss Picart...
BP And what if I have a good case?
DT Let me ask you this...
BP I have a good case!
DT What is your reason for not paying your rent?
BP I'm not going to discuss that with you.
DT Oh, you don't have to, but the bottom line is, anybody with no income that can't pay their rent, that can't eat and that can't pay their bills, so you could be countersuing the landlord, you don't want to pay the rent because of the conditions in the apartment, or you need repairs, or what have you. The bottom line is that you have no income. How you're gonna pay the rent? Basically, I don't need to know the reason why you don't pay the rent, but I ask the question just for my records.
BP By the way, the 72-hour notice doesn't exist anymore. It's been overturned by a Federal Appeals Court. It's thirty days now. I even have a newspaper clipping, if you want to read it.
(Reading) "A Federal Appeals Court ruled yesterday that landlords must give deadbeat tenants thirty days notice, not three, before beginning eviction proceedings."
DT Could you read that again?
DT Before beginning evictions proceedings.
DT Before beginning.
BP Yes, so that runs from the day the judge writes the order of eviction. And so far as I know, the judge hasn't yet given her decision regarding the last hearing that took place on December 16.
DT So basically, what you're saying to me is that... you're just buying time!
BP I'm not buying time. The judge is buying time. I mean, I don't want to put it that way, but as long as the judge hasn't made her decision and it's in the record, there's no order so there's no... I cannot make a decision until I know what the judge has decided.
DT Decided to do what?
BP Whatever she decides, based on my argument on the Order to Show Cause. You know, I asked for certain relief, and whether she grants it or not, whatever her choice is, as long as it's not in the form of a written order, then I don't know. Nobody knows. It's not in the record. I called the court clerk several times and there was nothing in the computer, and the judge said that she would send her decision in the mail, and I still haven't received anything. So I'm not buying time. As long as she doesn't put her decision on paper and sends it to me, I don't know.
DT How long have you lived here?
BP Nine years.
DT Where were you born?
BP I was born in Paris, France.
DT When did you come to this country?
BP In 1983.
DT What is your level of education?
BP Well, in France, it's different. I have a diploma that's the equivalent to two years college.
DT What's your occupation?
BP Mostly I've done secretarial work.
DT Do you practice a religion?
BP I refuse to answer that question.
DT And regarding all your shopping and cleaning and cooking, of course you do all that?
DT And when is your next court date, Miss Picart?
BP So far I don't know. I'm waiting for the judge's decision, as I told you earlier.
DT So basically you feel that there's not going to be another court date, based upon the decision of the judge not being there?
BP Yes. Let's wait for the judge's order. A judge's order must be in writing. It's one of the Civil Practice Rules.
Very long silenceDT Do you have any representation in court?
BP I represent myself.
DT Due to the fact that you represented yourself, do you feel that you can advocate for yourself?
BP Yes. I have law books that lawyers use. All this here (sho- wing bookshelves) is a law library.
BP You see, I have seven volumes of McKinney's, these are law books that are published by West, the lawyers'publisher. I have the Civil Practice Law and Rules, and thanks to these rules I know what I can do and what I cannot do...
BP ...and what everybody should do. I have books on Federal practice too, you see. Big book: Civil Practice in the Southern District of New York.
DT Do you have food?
BP Yes. I don't eat what I wish I would but I eat.
DT What do you do for entertainment?
BP I read, I play the guitar. I had a cat but she just died Monday of old age. She was a good companion. I read a lot.
DT Do you have friends?
BP I'd rather not speak of that.
DT I'm gonna ask you one more time. Could you tell me why you're not paying your rent?
BP Why? Because I don't have money, baasically.
DT My job is to come up with solutions, that's what I'm paid for, so let me ask you: how were you able to pay the $927?
BP My mother sent me the money.
DT Did you go to the center to see if you could get a "one-shot deal"?
BP I'm not eligible.
END OF TAPE
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