Kris Gounden Versus New York City Agencies: This Man Needs Serious Help

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Kris Gounden in front of the Manhattan Detention Center where he was a recent guest of the government. Photo: Nate Adams

[Black Star Editorial]

Kris Gounden believes he's the victim of abuse of power by prosecutors in Queens, some NYPD Police officers from the 106 precinct, and even officials from the department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

Why Gounden? What makes him special in a city of millions?

Is Gounden paying the price for having the temerity to move to Howard Beach in 2006 and to refuse to flee, even after his family, Guyanese immigrants of ethnic Indian ancestry, was subjected to alleged racist harassment from a neighbor?

The original alleged incidents seven years ago was covered by several media organizations, including WNBC, WABC TV, NY1 News, MY9, The Daily News on August 25, 2007, and other media outlets.

The alleged attacker, Michael Hussey, was never prosecuted because the Queens County District Attorney, Richard Brown, didn't secure an indictment. "The ham sandwich was allowed to walk,"  Gounden says wryly, a reference to how D.A.'s typically are able to get indictments.

He contends, that the incident was the beginning of his many predicaments.

Gounden says he suddenly started getting dozens of tickets on numerous alleged violations on his property including the compound, as The Daily News reported in the 2007 article.

"Inspectors went to Gounden's home nine times in the past year, according to Buildings Department records. Seven of the complaints resulted in fines totaling $10,500," The Daily News reported.

Other tickets started coming from the Department of Sanitation; HPD; the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and other agencies. And the dollar amounts mounted through the years, Gounden says.

Gounden says he also started getting fines for alleged violations on apartment units in the private rental buildings which his father had acquired decades ago and that he operated, for failure to make repairs and to maintain the buildings.

Many of the violations were bogus, Gounden claims, adding that they still had catastrophic consequences.

Many of the tenants were on Section 8, meaning the City paid the significant portion of their rents. As a result of the tickets for the alleged violations, HPD lawyers then started encouraging tenants to file a lawsuit against him, so the City stopped paying rent, Gounden says.

Meanwhile, the apartments couldn't be rented out to private tenants because the Section 8 tenants remained in the apartments while the court battles dragged on and the leases were still valid even though the city stopped paying rent.

Without rental income, Gounden claims he had to start using personal funds to do repairs in the apartments when they were needed and that he ended up borrowing more than $200,000 from his father, who had retired to Florida.

When The Black Star News reported on some of these allegations, city officials, and lawyers and judges Gounden alleged to have been involved in one particular case, didn't respond to requests for comments. The article covering one of these cases was published under the headline "The Homeless Industrial Complex."

Gounden has shown rent receipts that he says he and his wife Cheryl compiled; the couple estimates its owed nearly $600,000 by the City. "We went from about $250,000 in annual revenue to being flat broke now," Gounden says.

Some tenants resided in his apartments for more than two years without paying rent. In the case covered by The Black Star News the tenant allegedly owed $49,700 in back rent. Some tenants still remain in his buildings, he says.

Gounden says he wanted to document how bogus the violations were so when one HPD  lawyer Ronald Smith contacted him about $44,000 in alleged violations on one of his Queens properties, he initiated a phone and e-mail messages conversation with the lawyer and eventually got him to reduce the amount by $42,000 to $2,000.

"Dear Mr. Gounden," Smith, the lawyer, wrote, in an e-mail message to Gounden, dated November 15, 2012, reviewed by The Black Star News. "I will forward a proposed stipulation of settlement for $2,000.00. However the judge will not approve any settlement made outside of the courtroom. You or your attorney must personally appear before the judge to finalize the agreement. Thank you sir."

"Do you think if these were legitimate violations a city lawyer would agree to give away $42,000 that rightfully belongs to New York City?" Gounden asks.

Earlier this year, The Black Star News posed this same question to the HPD lawyer Ronald Smith and to RuthAnne Visnauskas, the outgoing HPD commissioner in the departing administration of mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Her spokesperson Eric Bederman responded to parts of the inquiry but totally ignored those questions related to the $44,000 fine that had all but disappeared. He didn't dispute Gounden's allegations either or the e-mail message Gounden exchanged with Smith, the city lawyer.

On January 15, Gounden was featured in a Daily News spread under the headline "Lord Slum."

RuthAnne Visnauskas was quoted in the article, about Gounden, “If you’re trying to be in the club of very bad building owners, this person would be in that club.”

The article reported that Gounden faced arrest on criminal contempt charges and civil penalties totaling $382,000 arising from his failure to do repairs on his tenants' apartments and his buildings and to properly repair a boiler.

According to The Daily News article, then King's County Housing Court Judge Kimberly Moser wanted Gounden locked up. "Nowhere in the article did commissioner Visnauskas mention or dispute the fact that I'm owed hundreds of thousands in back rent by the city," Gounden says. "How can any landlord make repairs when the revenue has been hijacked by the City?"

Gounden doesn't believe the HPD has been targeting him randomly. He says he has been talking with attorneys to build a case that dates back to when his family faced the alleged racist attack on Howard Beach by the neighbor when they first moved there and when the rash of tickets and fines for alleged violations started.

"Do you think it's by accident that I did not have those hundreds of violations against my family's rental properties before I moved to Howard Beach and suddenly they became non-stop after I moved there?" he says.

Gounden believes that even NYPD officers from the 106 precinct have been used against him.

Neighbors called the precinct and falsely claimed that there was loud noise coming from his property. Police routinely respond to these calls, he says.

On one occasion, February 21, 2012 when Gounden asked an officer named Peralta from the 106 precinct who had responded, about who had complained, the officer said she didn't know and that she had been instructed to respond.

When Gounden asked the officer if she could hear any loud noise from his home, she became testy; he then asked if he had cursed at him. "Did I curse at you? Did I curse at you? You fucking ass hole," a voice Gounden captured on tape which he says was Peralta's can be heard saying. "Jesus fucking Christ. If you don't fucking mind."

Gounden has posted the audiotape of that exchange on YouTube. "I have to document everything," he says. "As a person of color you know the first thing they say is 'oh another conspiracy theorist.'"

One particular incident, in June 2012, when a neighbor named Scott Statland confronted him and cursed at him and his then five year old son caused him and his family major grief, Gounden says.

He contends had police officers from the 106 precinct and prosecutors from DA Richard Brown's office reviewed a recording of the encounter that he made on his cell phone videocamera and offered to them, he would never have been arrested and dragged through the court system for one year and four months. (See original report by The Black Star News).

Gounden says he went through eight, mostly Legal Aid lawyers, all of whom wanted him to take a plea. Eventually when the prosecution kept failing to produce Statland or present its case the judge dismissed it on October  21, 2013.

"Can you believe this? They wanted me to take a plea when I was the victim. None of them wanted to fight the DA," he says. Statland did not respond to a request for comment when The Black Star News reported the incident. He no longer lives next to Gounden although, he says, he sees Statland's car parked outside the offices of New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. frequently.

When Gounden first moved to Howard Beach, Addabbo was then a New York City Councilmember and according to the August 25, 2007 Daily News article "accused Gounden of playing the race card after getting written up for an expensive building violation."

Gounden has filed a notice of claim against the City that he intends to file a lawsuit as a result of what he claims was the "false arrest and malicious prosecution" arising from the Statland incident.

His wife Cheryl suffered a miscarriage shortly after his arrest. Gounden blames it on the "stress from harassment campaign."

Gounden was also eventually arrested on the orders from Judge Moser from the Housing Court. He said he was keeping low profile and hoping he would have enough time to perfect opposition paper's to the judge's order, with the help of a friend who is a paralegal, when his luck ran out.

On June 19, 2014 he was driving with a friend in Queens when a car pulled up next to them and a marshal stepped out with his gun drawn. The marshal then called the NYPD for backup and soon they were surrounded by about a dozen armed officers, Gounden says. "I was thrown roughly to the ground and cuffed. I injured my shoulder," he says.

Gounden spent 51 days at the Manhattan Detention Center. He was released on August 9, 2014 shortly after The Black Star News contacted a spokesperson for the Corrections Department and noted that Judge Moser's order had stated that he should be held no more than 30 days.

He was treated by a doctor while in detention and after his release saw a doctor who performed an MRI and X-ray and said he had a chipped bone in the left shoulder.

"I just want the harassment to stop. I want the bogus tickets to stop. I want the City to pay me the back rents owed so I can rebuild my business and try to hold my marriage together," Gounden says.

He admits that his wife Cheryl is extremely unhappy and wants them to sell the house and move away.

"Anyone in this country should be allowed to live wherever they choose," Gounden says defiantly. "I want mayor Bill de Blasio's department of Investigations to look at the actions of the city agencies and Internal Affairs at the 106 precinct's actions. These aren't random acts."

He has posted a video on YouTube "The Chronicles of Gounden," detailing some of his encounters.

There was more bad news for Kris Gounden.

His elderly parents, Vera and Rama Gounden, both in  Loxahatchee, Florida, had heard about his incarceration and were anxious to see him once he was released.

On the week Gounden was to travel to Florida, he got a call one afternoon on August 20.

An ambulance taking his father Rama Gounden, 71, back home after treatment at a hospital had halted at a "STOP" sign.

The ambulance was rear-ended by a pickup truck driven by a teenager. The impact snapped Rama Gounden's spine. He was taken back to the same hospital that had just released him where he was pronounced dead.

The following week relatives gathered in New York from Florida, Guyana, Canada, and around the country for a funeral service.

Gounden, who is normally stoic, finally broke down when Rama Gounden's casket was eased into the crematorium amidst loud wails from relatives and friends.

 

If you also have a case you believe is worth investigating send the details with documentation to milton@blackstarnews.com

 

 

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