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Iraq vet, NYU student says university wants to unfairly bounce him from his dead father’s apartment

2019-08-14

Luis Munroe poses for a portrait in Washington Square Park in Manhattan on Tuesday. The disabled Iraq veteran is fighting NYU over his right to live in the apartment he grew up in. (Angus Mordant/for New York Daily News)

For as long as he can remember, Luis Munroe has called New York University home.

The 40-year-old grew up in a university-owned apartment overlooking Washington Square Park while his father worked in the NYU library, and when he deployed to Iraq as a Marine, he day-dreamed of Washington Square Arch.

So when his dad died last year, Munroe – now a full-time university student – planned to take over the family apartment, and was stunned the university challenged his succession rights to the rent-controlled unit.

“I felt kind of like an unwanted stepchild,” Munroe told the Daily News Tuesday. “They just wanted to do what was convenient for them.”

The university claims it has no evidence Munroe lived full-time in the $1,200-a-month apartment long enough to stake succession rights.

"We respect Luis Munroe’s service to his country and his sacrifice,” said university spokesman John Beckman. “But we have not been provided with evidence that his circumstances meet the legal standards for succeeding his father as tenant of this rental apartment.”

Munroe disputes that account, and said he deserves better treatment from the university his family has served for decades.

Luis Munroe, a disabled Iraq veteran, is fighting NYU over his right to live in the apartment he grew up in. He's pictured here in his younger days.
Luis Munroe, a disabled Iraq veteran, is fighting NYU over his right to live in the apartment he grew up in. He's pictured here in his younger days.

Born at an NYU hospital in 1979, Munroe was raised in the half-bedroom studio space at 14 Washington Place with neighbors like former Mayor Ed Koch. Munroe enlisted in the Marines in 1999, and was among the first troops on the ground in Iraq. When he returned home in 2003, he got a security job at NYU.

But the transition from soldier to citizen wasn’t easy.

“I felt depressed a lot,” he told The News. “My thoughts weren’t clear. I lost focus. Sometimes I just cried.”

He was diagnosed in 2007 with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Traumatic Brain Injury, and began receiving disability benefits.

After years of counseling, Munroe in 2014 enrolled at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, and moved to New Jersey with his wife and infant daughter. When the marriage fell apart in 2017, he moved back in with his cancer-stricken dad, who died in late 2018.

Under state law, family members of a deceased lease-holder in a rent-controlled apartment are entitled to take over the lease if they were living there full-time for at least two years before the death – and one year if the successor is disabled.

Munroe filed for succession rights in January. NYU pushed back, claiming he wasn’t living in the apartment full-time, still had a Garden State driver’s license, a phone number linked to a home there and was registered to vote there.

Munroe argues his name is on the N.J. home because his wife, a Colombian immigrant with whom he’s separated, only recently got her green card. He added that changing a driver’s license or voter registration is tough because of his disability.

Dao Sun, a lawyer for the Veterans Justice Project at Manhattan Legal Services who’s representing Munroe, told The News that’s not uncommon for vets diagnosed with PTSD.

“They struggle with memory,” he said. “They don’t always follow through.”

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In the meantime, the legal process has taken its toll.

“I started feeling much worse anxiety than I felt before,” he said. “I feel like [NYU] is being excessive.”