With Over $14,000 in Unspent Rent, Two Bridges Resident Finds Suburban Bliss

IMG_Pat  James 20624Evan Bleier Patricia James in her former home.

With the help of over $14,000 in rent that she withheld from the New York City Housing Authority because, she said, it didn’t make repairs to her apartment in the Two Bridges complex, a lifelong New Yorker has left the city’s public housing for suburbia. Now, instead of complaining about rodents, Patricia James is dodging ducks in her parking lot. She even has a fireplace.

In March, the 67-year-old grandmother said she didn’t want to fork over a check for over $14,000 in back rent and fees until the housing authority assured her in writing that it would let her stay in her $517-a-month apartment. In April, a Housing Court judge ruled that she must leave her apartment of 37 years, but gave her permission to stay until July.

The judge, said Ms. James, offered her a “settlement that would give me an opportunity to find a place to live and some money to move. It gave them possession of the apartment, and me the money.”

Using some of the accumulated rent, Ms. James moved out of state. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford rents in New York,” said Ms. James, who survives only on Social Security.

Though Ms. James did not want to disclose her exact location on the northeast corridor, she said her new apartment had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a wood-burning fireplace. Best of all: when the exterminator comes once a month, she turns him away.

“It’s fantastic,” she said, adding that the relief she feels now that her housing situation is resolved has also made her healthier. “I became so ill in that other apartment,” she said. “I could barely walk, I could barely breathe. I couldn’t even remember which pills were for what. I was at a real low psychologically.”

But Ms. James may not be home free: the housing authority said in a statement that it “could still pursue that back rent through the courts,” though a representative declined to say whether it would do so.

Ms. James is aware the Authority could still go after the back rent, but said she wasn’t concerned. “They can technically do anything they want to, and so could I,” she said.

Now that she’s ensconced in suburbia, Ms. James said that the only challenges she’s facing are figuring out ways to replace her beloved New York museum trips and off-Broadway plays. Her next adventure, she said, is exploring the mysteries of Super Wal-Mart, BJ’s, Costco, and Home Depot.

“I’m far away, and it’s a good thing,” she said. “I’m enjoying a new life.”