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1972 to concentrate housing-related cases in a single court and to involve judges in the process of seeing that the housing stock was repaired. When I agreed to contribute an essay on how the Housing Court is fulfilling its obligation to preserve the housing stock, for the October 29, 2004 conference held by The Justice Center of the New York County Lawyers' Association, I imagined I would review annual court-produced statistics. I expected this to include 30 years worth of information about repairs claimed to be needed, orders to repair issued, number of repairs actually made, the range of enforcement tools used to combat failures to repair, and other records of how the court put to use its special jurisdictional and remedial powers.

What I quickly found was that the court does not issue (and, indeed, has no practical way to produce) such statistics. Consequently, it has no way to measure its success in the singularly important and unique mission of preserving the housing stock of the City of New York. Since I could not assess the court's success, I turned to consider whether adoption by the court of database technology focused on repair related information would produce the needed statistics and, at the same time, allow the judges of the court to have instant access to repair related facts about individual apartments, buildings, and landlords, across all the cases filed (after the system goes into effect) in the court. As I considered this, I concluded that such access within the court to repair related information would necessarily make the court itself more effective in preserving the housing stock: the very fact of being able to measure its work will heighten the rigor with which the court approaches its mission. Or so I predict. Thus, in this essay I first sketch the basic powers of the court. I then sketch the contours of a database computer system that could further the court's ability to carry forward its mission.


Courts | Housing Law | Law