AG-Elect Tish James Brings Thanksgiving Joy To Woman & Her Two Kids

A women who has been living in her car for over two years stemming from the city’s controversial Third Party Transfer (TPT) program received a Thanksgiving reprieve this year, when she was given a chance to go back to the home she was raised in for the annual holiday.

With help from State Attorney General-elect Letitia “Tish” James, 77th Police Precinct Community Council President James Caldwell and attorney Yolande Nicholson, Sherlivia Thomas Murchinson, 43, went into her building with her 6-month old and 10-year-old daughters for the first time in over 24 months.

State Attorney General-Elect Letitia “Tish” James.

James intervened on behalf of Murchinson earlier today after receiving a distress call from Caldwell saying the city attempted to tow the mother of two and her children from near the premises of 248 Madison Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant on alleged parking violations.

Murchinson has been living out of her car since 2016, as a result of a convoluted situation with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s TPT program.

The building at 248 Madison Street fell into the affordable housing program in 2012, due to unpaid and hot water and gas bills with the principle being over $113,000 and including interest being over $300,000, according to city filings.

The former Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) cooperative property was then given over to Neighborhood Restore, a public/private non-profit  for an interim period to bring the property up to code. The non-profit Bridge Street Development Corporation (BSDC), located about a  block away from the property on Nostrand Avenue, then took over ownership of the property with Queens-based Wavecrest Management overseeing the renovation and managerial work.

In 2016, BSDC made capital improvements to the building along with several others on the block and in the area forcing the residents out for two years to then to move them back in earlier this year. However, in that time span Murchinson was allegedly classified as a “nuisance” due to confrontations involving BSDC and Wavecrest Management regarding renovation projects in the building.

Sherlivia Thomas Murchinson beside the car she has been living in for the past two years on the block with 248 Madison Street on it. Photo by Kelly Mena.

Murchinson was then served with a restraining order that left her unable to return back to her unit and family in the building and forcing her to make her home in her black jeep. The judgement also included a gag order that left Murchinson unable to fight or use her voice against the non-profit developers.

According to emails obtained by KCP, the head of BSDC gave his consent to the AG-Elect – still in her position as NYC Publis Advocate – to allow her to return to the building and her family for the Thanksgiving day holiday. The emails also include the possibility that Murchinson could stay in the building for longer. Emilio Dorcely, President & CEO of BSDC, is supposedly amenable to extending that time on request.

Murchinson still faces an uncertain future for now, with the hope of permanently being reunited with her home and family. Only time will tell if her and her children will return back to the small four-door crammed car of a home they shared or life in a building next to their family.

Caldwell said he first became involved with Murchinson through recent town hall meetings on the TPT program. Although she appeared traumatized from being homeless and living in a car with her two children, there appeared to be some ring of truth in her saying her parents owned one of the co-op apartments where she was raised and since they both died the apartment is rightfully hers, said Caldwell.

Nicholson, like Caldwell, is extremely concerned that the TPT program is targeting and taking generational wealth out of longtime black and brown neighborhoods. She specializes in foreclosure law and is serving as Murchinson’s counsel.

“When I visited my client in the car where she was living I committed to getting her in a home for Thanksgiving before I sat down with my own family for Thanksgiving,” said Nicholson. “When I saw the baby in the car seat being used as a crib and the look on this 10-year-old daughter sleeping in her coat in the back seat, and that Mrs. Murchinson had an evergreen wreath on the dashboard for the holidays and to keep the car smelling fresh was heart wrenching.”

The building at 248 Madison Street, center, in Bedford-Stuyvesant has been undergoing renovations for about two years. Photo by Kelly Mena.

Caldwell said when he received the call from Murchinson, he immediately called Nicholson, who suggested Caldwell call James, who lives in nearby Clinton Hill. The AG-Elect knows many of the civic leader players, non-profits and community organizations as both a former city council member, the current public advocate and a caring neighbor.

James called Dorcely, who maintains that Murchinson is both irrational and does not have rights to live in the building, even though she grew up there, and continues to have immediate family – including in the apartment where her parents lived – which she claims is hers. 

James, who has called for a temporary freeze of the TPT program, and will soon have the power as attorney general to possibly conduct a state level investigation on the program, apparently convinced Dorcely it would be better to have her re-enter the building for the Thanksgiving holiday and maybe longer.

“No one should celebrate Thanksgiving in a car. Period,” said James. “I thank Mr. Caldwell for bringing her to my attention.”

But Murchinson said going back into the building to see her sister and other family members was greeted with tears of happiness, sadness and continued trepidation.

“They [her family] love me, but it’s been very traumatic. They [BSDC] instructed my own family to not talk to me or they would be in the street as well,” she said.

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