Heartless squatter takes woman’s NYCHA apartment as she’s dying in nursing home

Patricia Phillip was staying at a nursing home when a squatter moved into her NYCHA apartment in Harlem. (Patricia Phillip)

All Patricia Phillip wanted to do was live out her days in her apartment in Harlem’s Taft Houses — but her home was no longer hers.

It belongs to a squatter who secretly took over the 67-year-old New York City Housing Authority apartment years ago — leaving the disabled woman to die in a nursing home where she had been raped six years earlier, her attorney claims.

Even though Phillip was fit enough to live on her own she couldn’t because the stranger had hijacked her apartment, according to attorney Colleen Meenan, who said NYCHA has done nothing to remove the squatter who has been living there rent free for years.

“From the first day I met her, all (Phillip) said to me was, ‘I want to go home,'” Meenan told the Daily News. “But she was warehoused in this nursing home, completely abandoned.”

We don’t know if it was sloppy management or if someone was looking the other way,” Meenan said. “We’ve been begging NYCHA for close to 10 months to do the right thing, but they haven’t.”

Phillip ultimately died of congestive heart failure on Jan. 19.

Her last hours were in a room just a floor away from where she was raped by a nurse’s assistant in 2009.

By the end of her life, Phillip, a stroke and breast cancer survivor, was left sitting “in a dark room with the shades drawn in worn, donated clothing,” according to a consultant who worked on Phillip’s case.

“She was watching 20-year-old reruns,” said the consultant, who wished not to be named. “This went on for years. There was no reason for (her to) be there when she could have lived in the community.”

Phillip had been approved for a state-funded program designed to take people out of nursing homes and rehab centers and put them back into the community.

Phillip's lawyer told NYCHA that someone had taken her apartment at the Taft Houses in Harlem, but nothing was done to remove the squatter.
Phillip’s lawyer told NYCHA that someone had taken her apartment at the Taft Houses in Harlem, but nothing was done to remove the squatter. (Google Maps Street View)

“The only thing that kept her (in the nursing home) was that she had no place to go,” the consultant said.

Meenan told NYCHA that someone had taken over Phillip’s apartment, but nothing was done to remove the interloper.

As Phillip’s legal guardian, Meenan had to begin eviction proceedings herself with NYCHA’s assistance.

A decision on the eviction was pending.The squatter was ordered to come to court, but never showed, she said.

Now that Phillip is dead, NYCHA still won’t take action to remove the squatters so Meenan could retrieve Phillip’s property.

Phillip moved into the Amsterdam Nursing Home in Harlem in 2004 after having her stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. Yet she kept paying her rent in the hopes of returning to the Taft Houses.

Five years later, nursing assistant Jose Ramos raped her inside her room, police said.

Ramos was arrested and ultimately convicted of sex abuse and endangering an elderly or vulnerable adult. His five-year prison sentence is expected to end in October, court documents show. A call to the Amsterdam Nursing home for comment on Saturday was not immediately returned.

As Phillip remained in the nursing home, someone moved into her apartment. Each year, the squatter would sign an occupant affidavit in Phillip’s name, pretending to be the tenant, Meenan said.

No one was home at Phillip’s 12th floor apartment on Friday. Mail sent to the apartment was addressed to a Michelle and Kenneth Brown, but it wasn’t clear if they were living there.

Phillip died of congestive heart failure on Jan. 19.
Phillip died of congestive heart failure on Jan. 19. (Patricia Phillip)

Neighbors described the secret tenant as a woman with “very long dreadlocks” that “always dresses in white” and may work as a street vendor.

“I just thought somebody new had moved in there,” said one neighbor, who wished not to be named. “No one knew anything about this.”

The tenant remembered Phillip — who she called “Ms. Pat” — as an animal lover who had two dogs.

“I’m very shocked,” the woman said. “Ms. Pat should have been able to come back here where she has people that care for her.”

A NYCHA source said no one complained of any criminal activity coming from the apartment.

No one in NYCHA knew about the squatter until recently, after Phillip stopped paying the rent and the agency began a housing court proceeding for non-payment.

Squatting cases are extremely rare, the source said.

NYCHA is investigating Meenan’s claims.

“It is important that we have an accurate accounting of our tenancy so we can continue to provide this valued resource to New Yorkers,” a spokeswoman said in statement.

With ttracy@nydailynews.com

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