COALITION FOR JUSTICE IN HOUSING COURT LAUDS DE BLASIO INITIATIVE TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES FOR TENANTS IN NEWLY REZONED NEIGHBORHOODS

 

ADVOCATES AND ELECTEDS LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH ADMINISTRATION TO FURTHER EXPAND THE PROGRAM TO INCLUDE ALL LOW-INCOME TENANTS 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, February 3rd  

CONTACT: Jordan Levine (CM Levine) 917-842-5748 / jlevine@council.nyc.gov

NEW YORK -- Today in his State of the City address, Mayor de Blasio announced an initiative to invest $36 million in legal services for tenants in newly rezoned neighborhoods. Through outside groups like the Legal Aid Society, the program will help residents fight harassment by landlords, who might be eager to harass and evict tenants to take advantage of the higher rents that often accompany a rezoning.

Members of the Coalition for Justice in Housing Court, which has long pushed for a right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction, issued the following response:

Council Member Mark Levine said: “This is a welcome and dramatic change in the way that up-zonings are handled in New York City. Mayor de Blasio has demonstrated he understands that we must first protect existing communities before we seek to build. These funds will triple the amount dedicated to legal services protecting tenants, building on the record commitment Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council made last year to double its budget. We must continue to expand this effort until every low-income tenant in New York City has access to the same kind of justice being offered in these select zones.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson said: “I applaud the efforts of Mayor de Blasio, to remedy the lack of fair legal representation for our low-income tenants by providing additional resources to not for profit legal organizations such as Legal Services, to assist tenants against any potential unscrupulous claims by landlords, who attempt to illegally remove tenants from rent control and rent regulated apartments. It recognizes the importance of transparency as it pertains to the landlords using illegal measures to push out rent control and rent regulated tenants out of NYC, and helps keep rents affordable, as we continue to fight on behalf of our hard working families who are desperately trying to sustain themselves as the cost of rents continue to increase, and on the eve of the NYS rent stabilization laws set to expire on June 15, 2015. On the City Council side, I have introduced a resolution that ask New York State Homes and Community Renewal, to track data on the number of tenants who have submitted requests to obtain succession rights, in order to ensure that we are capable of analyzing data that illustrates the number of residents who are eligible to obtain succession of rent control and rent-regulated apartments, and watching any trends of specific landlords who are trying to circumvent the process of tenants applying for succession of these apartments.”

Council Member Ritchie Torres said: “Affordable, quality housing in New York City is becoming increasingly out of reach for too many New Yorkers, and I applaud the Mayor’s commitment to investing $36 million in legal services for tenants who face harassment by landlords,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “The Mayor’s announcement is unprecedented, but I believe we must take it one step further by guaranteeing access to free legal representation during eviction proceedings for all low-income New Yorkers, including those who live in public housing.” 

“The Legal Aid Society applauds the Mayor's commitment of resources to address the real housing crisis of affordability, displacement and eviction.  Low and middle income tenants are increasingly facing harassment, lack of services, and illegitimate housing court actions.  In far too many cases, without adequate representation families are made homeless or forced to leave their homes because of lack of heat and hot water. With an attorney, we can ensure that vulnerable families can live in safe, habitable and affordable homes,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge, Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society.

“NYLAG supports the Mayor’s commitment to addressing the critical issue of dwindling affordable housing in our City - and we applaud his recognition that increased funding for legal services plays a vital role in ensuring that tenants have protections in place to defend themselves against illegal evictions and landlord harassment,” said Randal Jeffrey, Director of General Legal Services, New York Legal Assistance Group.

“Stopping displacement in the re-zoned areas is key - otherwise you lose as much affordable housing as you gain. Providing legal representation to tenants facing eviction is the most effective way to keep them in their homes,” said Jenny Laurie, Executive Director of Housing Court Answers

“The Goddard Riverside Law Project applauds Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to provide low-income tenants with the right to counsel in housing court cases. Providing tenants with the necessary tools to fight the injustices they face each day in housing court is an essential step in protecting tenants’ rights and preserving affordable housing,” said Marti Weithman, Director, Goddard Riverside Law Project

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio for increasing funds for legal services in areas to be re-zoned, like the Bronx. As we add to our affordable housing stock, we look forward to working with the administration to ensure that there are strong citywide and neighborhood-specific policies in place to stem the tide against gentrification. Beyond this initiative, we also need to pass and fund Intro 214, which would protect all low-income tenants from unnecessary and forced displacements by making it a right for tenants to have attorneys to defend themselves and their homes,” said Susanna Blankley, Director of Housing Organizing, CASA-New Settlement.

“The Mayor’s proposal to expand eviction prevention legal services in gentrifying communities as part of his affordable housing strategy is welcome.  It reflects his longstanding commitment to access to justice and his recognition that people require legal help when they face eviction from their homes.  But the proposal doesn’t go far enough.  Low-income New Yorkers must have a right to counsel in eviction cases no matter where they live.   A right to counsel will save shelter costs (which are now about a billion dollars a year and growing), preserve affordable housing units throughout the city, and enable low-income children to grow and develop in stable homes and communities.  I look forward to further discussion of this critical policy issue at City Hall in the coming months,” said Andrew Scherer, Policy Director, Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School and author of Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York.

Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy, LiveOn NY, stated: "The right to counsel in housing court should be established for all vulnerable New Yorkers. On behalf of thousands of older New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent and facing landlord harassment to force seniors out of their apartments, we applaud Mayor de Blasio's allocating $36 million for legal services in housing court.  Targeting gentrifying neighborhoods is exactly what long time tenants like seniors need to have the legal protection they deserve. We look forward to working with the Mayor and City Council to implement a full right to counsel program in NYC."

"Eviction prevention is key to helping families maintain their homes and stabilizing communities. Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation applauds the Mayor's efforts to support the services which reduce homelessness and preserve affordable housing throughout NYC," said Maria Lizardo, Executive Director, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation.

To learn more about the Coalition for Justice in Housing Court, click here. A full list of members is below:

  • Participating Organizations
  • Bronx Defenders
  • Bronx Jewish Community Council
  • Brooklyn Defender Services
  • Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A.
  • CAMBA
  • CASA: Community Action for Safe Apartments
  • Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens, Bklyn Community Center
  • Catholic Migration Services
  • Central Park Gardens Tenants' Association
  • Chelsea Coalition
  • Chhaya CDC
  • Children's Aid Society
  • Citymeals on Wheels
  • Coalition for the Homeless
  • Collins, Dobkin & Miller LLP
  • Community Service Society
  • Cooper Square Committee
  • Council of Senior Centers and Services
  • DC 37
  • Fifth Avenue Committee
  • Fishman & Mallon, LLP
  • Goddard Riverside Community Center
  • Heights and Hills, Inc
  • Himmelstein McConnell Gribben Donoghue & Joseph
  • Homeless Services United, Inc
  • Housing Conservation Coordinators
  • Housing Court Answers, Inc
  • Hudson Guild
  • Interfaith assembly on homelessness and housing
  • JASA/Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens
  • Law Offices of Eric Dinnocenzo
  • Legal Services NYC
  • Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
  • Los Sures - Southside United Housing
  • Metropolitan Council on Housing
  • MFY Legal Services
  • Minkwon Center for Community Action
  • Mitchell Lama Residents Coalition
  • National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel
  • National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
  • National Lawyers Guild - NYC Chapter Housing Committee
  • Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
  • Neighbors Helping Neighbors
  • New York City Anti-Violence Project
  • New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
  • Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp
  • Palante Harlem
  • PEP for Seniors NORC SSP
  • Pratt Area Community Council
  • Public Justice Center
  • SAGE - Seniors & Advocacy for GLBT Elders
  • Self Help Community Services, Inc
  • Teamsters Local 237  - Legal Services Plan
  • Tenants & Neighbors
  • Tenants PAC
  • The Bronx Defenderes
  • The Legal Aid Society
  • Urban Justice Center
  • Westgate Tenant Assoc at Stonehenge

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