newspaper commentary bashes pro-homeless judge FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 3 Aug 1998 19:15:53 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.nypostonline.com/073198/commentary/4466.htm

FWD  New York Post COMMENTARY July 31, 1998

       
     HONORING CITY JUDGE IS CRIMINAL

     By Andrea Peyser

WHAT'S next? The Judge Lorin "Free the Wife-Beaters"
Duckman Humanitarian Award?

Today, no less an august body than the American Bar
Association, meeting in Toronto, plans to bestow its
prestigious Award of Judicial Excellence to one of New
York's favorite loony judges - Justice Helen Freedman of
Manhattan Supreme Court.

The only reason I can fathom why Freedman has been
singled out for notice is because, even in left-wing
judicial circles, Freedman's record stands out as
one-of-a-kind.

And a good thing that is for all of us.

In case you've forgotten, Freedman in the past 13 years
was almost singlehandedly responsible for putting New
York City on the map as the most desirable - and lucrative
- place in which to declare yourself a homeless person.

You didn't even have to be really homeless. Heck, you
didn't even have to be from New York.

After Freedman's award was announced this week in the
New York Law Journal, city officials who for years have
banged their heads against the wall in Freedman's court
expressed, to put it mildly, disbelief.

For all Freedman's activism, ostensibly on behalf of the
homeless - but primarily in service of the Legal Aid
Society's agenda - the main result of her work had been
to swell the ranks of people declaring themselves
homeless, many for want of a better deal.

"Just because the Soviet Union failed doesn't mean
Socialism's dead," observed one city official who, like
others interviewed for this piece, declined to be
identified.

"Nobody is going to want to say anything negative about
the judge" on the record, he explained, "because we're
still constantly before her.

"For one thing, it's unethical. For another, it's suicidal."

For many years, it was easy to make yourself homeless,
thanks to Freedman. Unhappy with your apartment?
Upset with the strict rules of your mother's house? No
sweat. You may still have qualified, no questions asked,
for cash and valuable prizes under Judge Freedman's
"You, Too, Can Be Homeless" sweepstakes.

The rules were simple: Just pack up the kids and the
boyfriend and show up with scores of other contestants
on the steps of the city's nasty Emergency Assistance
Unit - EAU, for short - in The Bronx.

If officials were unable to find you immediate housing
deemed acceptable by the judge, under Freedman's Rule,
the city may have been forced to pay you $50 to $100 -
every day.

Over the years, Freedman's rulings cost the city millions,
while accomplishing absolutely nothing to help those
truly in need.

In 1992, with the EAU overflowing with would-be
homeless, Freedman flipped her wig, ordering four top
Dinkins administration officials to spend a night with
"homeless" contestants on the floor of the EAU office.

That sentence was later overturned on appeal.

While much has been written about the squalor of the
EAU office - lights remain on all night, people sleep
cheek-to-jowl - there is a good reason this became a
popular destination.

A short stay in the unit became the fastest and surest route
to win a coveted federal Section 8 rent voucher, a goody
that last year paid a family of four $761 a month,
compared to $312 on welfare.

Even so, the city, according to the City Journal, last year
winners in the form of moving expenses, broker's fees
and bonuses to landlords.

Not bad for a couple of nights on the floor.

The last big showdown between Freedman and reality
came in August 1996, when Freedman blocked the
Giuliani administration's plans to evaluate EAU-dwellers
for its welfare-ending workfare program.

An angry Giuliani declared: "It's about time; Freedman,
step aside."

Is it minutely possible that Freedman took a hint that her
ways - though celebrated by the Bar Association - had
gone the way of the dodo?

Recently, Freedman declined to rule whether the city has
the right to screen people for eligibility to the EAU -
instead referring the issue to an arbitrator, according to
Lenny Koerner of the city's Law Department.

Until a final decision is made, officials are, finally, able
to screen EAU applicants - helping the needy while
turning away people who have other places to go.

"I think maybe she's starting to see the other side now,"
said one hopeful city official.

But one doubter said: "She senses the tide has turned
against her crazy rulings, so she's being quiet for now."

For this they give awards?

END FORWARD

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