The petitioner, the mother of several children, is a welfare recipient whose apartment was allegedly burglarized, resulting in the loss or destruction of clothing and furniture. She thereupon applied to the New York City Social Services Department for replacement of the stolen articles, relying on section 131-a (subd. 6) of the Social Services Law which, in part, provides that "a social services official may make provisions for the * * * replacement of necessary furniture and clothing for persons in need of public assistance who have suffered the loss of such items as the result of fire, flood or other like catastrophe".
The statute provides for replacement of necessary furniture and clothing for persons who have suffered the loss of such items "as the result of fire, flood or other like catastrophe". The loss of those articles to one who has no money with which to replace them might well be deemed a "catastrophe". However, our task is to decide not whether a burglary may, in some instances, be termed a "catastrophe" as that word is generally understood but, rather, what the Legislature and the Social Services Department intended when they used the phrase "fire, flood or other like catastrophe". Having in mind the maxims, ejusdem generis and noscitur a sociis, it is difficult to conclude that it was the legislative design to include "burglary" within the covering clause employed. Reasonably construed, the phrase, a "like catastrophe" encompasses only a natural occurrence — and, in the case of a fire, one that is man-made — but a burglary is far too unlike a fire or a flood to be included.
This was, the Commissioner informs us, the precise construction intended by his department in drafting the regulation
It is highly unfortunate that burglaries are endemic to many sections of the city and occur in great numbers but such misfortune may not be labeled a "catastrophe" within the sense of the statute and, certainly, to so construe it — as the agency has — may not be said to be irrational or unreasonable. In fact, to include within the phrase a "like catastrophe" a burglary would require a rewriting of the statute; the courts should not resort to such unwarranted judicial legislation. If there is to be a change in the Commissioner's construction of the statute, it must be accomplished by legislative amendment.
Appeal taken as of right dismissed, without costs, upon the ground that the order appealed from does not finally determine the proceeding within the meaning of the Constitution. Motion for leave to appeal granted. Order reversed, without costs, and petition dismissed.