At the City Council, Better Gender Balance Among Chiefs of Staff

By Samar Khursid

The New York City Council, a 51-member body, currently includes only 13 women, down from 18 in 2009, and that number is likely to soon fall to 12 when the next Council is seated in January, if this year’s elections continue as expected. There has been widespread recent attention given to the City Council gender imbalance, in part because the Council’s Women’s Caucus released a report on the subject, and there are efforts underway to improve female representation in the Council through future elections.

Read the full story here. 

Add your reaction Share

More Buses Should Control Traffic Lights, City Councilman Says

By Gustavo Solis

HAMILTON HEIGHTS — The BX19, which connects Hamilton Heights to the South Bronx, is so slow that people who are in a hurry might as well stick to the sidewalk, said City Councilman Mark Levine during a press conference on 145th Street and Broadway on Thursday.

“On a slow day, we are not much better than walking speed on this route,” Levine said standing in front of the 145th Street bus stop. “Even on the better days, we’re not much better than a slow jog.”

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Pools, beaches in NYC poised for permanent extra week

By Ivan Pereira

New Yorkers will be getting extra time in the sun and sand next season.

The City Council is expected to pass a law that permanently extends the public beach and pool season in September by one week. The parks department has kept beaches open the week after Labor Day for three consecutive years, and the extra days have been popular, according to Councilman Mark Levine, who sponsored the bill.

Read the full story here. 

Add your reaction Share

New York Goes to the Mattresses Against the Eviction Machine

Slate.svgBy Henry Grabar

As the Trump era drags on, the hope that cities would be bastions of resistance has melted into air. In some cases, cities don’t have the authority to serve as an effective bulwark against Republican control of statehouses and Washington, and against federal agencies like ICE. In others, they don’t have the capacity to preserve or increase protections for the poor and vulnerable.

But there is still room for big, simple victories, like the idea Mark Levine, a city councilman from upper Manhattan, has been working on since 2014: Hire lawyers for tenants in housing court. On Thursday, the New York City Council passed a bill that will guarantee, within five years, legal representation for all low-income tenants facing eviction. Mayor Bill de Blasio has indicated he will sign it. An independent study commissioned by the New York City Bar Association estimated the law could keep more than 5,000 families from homelessness every year.

Of all the ways that the American financial and legal system leaves renters at a disadvantage, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more unequal terrain than housing court. Nationwide, 90 percent of landlords have attorneys, but 90 percent of tenants do not. Tenants don’t show up to defend themselves or don’t know how. In a randomized experiment performed by the Legal Aid Society, eviction warrants declined 77 percent when the tenant had counsel.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

City Council Passes 'Right to Counsel' For Low-Income Tenants in Housing Court

Gotham_Gazette.pngBy Amanda Tukaj

The New York City Council passed a bill on Thursday to guarantee free legal services to low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court. The bill codifies an agreement, announced in February this year, between the Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio to fully fund anti-eviction legal services in the next five years.

The “Right to Counsel” legislation, Intro. 214, was sponsored by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, who have consistently advocated for the bill since introducing it three years ago. Under the new law, the first of its kind in the country, the city’s Office of Civil Justice Coordinator will provide low-income tenants -- those with household incomes below $49,200, or 200 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four -- with legal representation free of cost, phased in by zip codes over five years. The law will also provide legal consultations to those whose income is higher than the bill’s threshold and establish a legal services program by October this year for New York City Housing Authority tenants facing administrative proceedings to terminate their tenancy. The city has allocated $15 million to implement the new provisions in fiscal year 2018, increasing that to $93 million by 2022 by when it is expected to serve 400,000 New Yorkers.

The mood in the Council chambers before Thursday’s vote was celebratory as Council members expressed their support for the bill and congratulated their colleagues on achieving a key priority of the dominantly progressive body. At one point, the chamber filled with whoops and cheers from tenant advocates who had fought for the legislation and were there to see its passage. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority, with 42 Council members voting for it and one abstention. Only the three Republican members of the body voted against the bill.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

City Bar, Others Laud Passage of Civil 'Gideon' Bill

New_York_Law_Journal.gifBy Shibani Gokhale

The New York City Council's decision to offer free counsel to low-income tenants facing eviction is being applauded by legal service providers and the New York City Bar Association, which praised passage of the "historic legislation."

The city council on July 20 approved the "Right to Counsel in Housing Court," a bill that would establish programs to ensure legal representation for all tenants facing eviction within the next five years.

"Providing a lawyer to a tenant facing eviction not only increases the likelihood that the tenant will be able to avoid eviction, thereby reducing displacement, disruption, and homelessness, but should also be highly cost-effective," the city bar said in a statement.

According to a 2016 study by the city bar, there is a 77 percent decrease in eviction warrants issued to tenants who had an attorney in Housing Court, compared to those who did not, independent of the merit of the case.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Tenants facing eviction will get lawyers paid for by city

New_York_Daily_News_logo.pngBy Erin Durkin

Tenants facing eviction will get lawyers paid for by the city under a bill passed by the City Council Thursday.

The legislation for the first time establishes a “right to counsel” in housing court — where unlike in criminal court, people have not been entitled to lawyers.

Almost all landlords have an attorney.

“No legal proceeding is fair if only one side has a lawyer,” said Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan). “The worst landlords have used housing court as a weapon, hauling tenants into court on flimsy eviction cases because they knew that in the vast majority of cases the tenant would not have a lawyer.”

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share


CityandState.pngBy Mark Levine

Every elected official knows constituents whose stories they will never forget. One of the most lasting for me is of a woman – I’ll call her Maria – who came to my office in tears after receiving an eviction order. She had been injured stepping on a broken stair in her apartment building, lost her job as a result, and was ultimately taken to court by a notoriously aggressive landlord for being unable to pay her rent. Without the money to afford a lawyer, she was forced to represent herself. Predictably, she ended up like thousands of other New Yorkers, forced from her home.

There’s hardly a member of the New York City Council who couldn’t share a similar story. That’s why today we will vote to make New York the first city in the nation to guarantee free legal representation for low-income New Yorkers facing eviction in housing court. The bill we are voting on today – Intro 214b – is expected to pass by a wide margin, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has already signaled his support. That means that beginning today, no low-income city resident will lose a home because he or she can’t afford a lawyer.

The bill’s passage will mark the beginning of a new era for tenants in this city.

Historically, fewer than 10 percent of tenants have had an attorney during an eviction proceeding, compared to nearly 100 percent of landlords. The results were predictably devastating – over 22,000 evictions a year, landing tens of thousands of New Yorkers in our city’s homeless shelters and on the streets. Among them are many who, like Maria, might still be in their homes if only they had an attorney.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Taxpayers to fund legal help for tenants facing eviction under bill

SILive_logo.pngBy Anna Sanders

CITY HALL -- Council members are trying to ensure smaller Staten Island landlords are spared the brunt of a proposed law that would provide all tenants facing eviction with legal help. 

Taxpayers would give all low-income tenants facing eviction with full representation in housing court, while other renters would receive brief legal assistance under a bill from Council members Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) and Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx) that's expected to pass the full Council on Thursday. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio is also expected to sign the bill. 

People have a right to counsel in criminal proceedings, but tenants aren't guaranteed help fighting eviction in housing court and the vast majority are fighting against landlords with pricey attorneys.

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

City Council set to vote on bill to guarantee legal counsel to New York City tenants facing eviction

By Jillian JorgensenNew_York_Daily_News_logo.png

The City Council will vote next week to guarantee access to a lawyer in housing court for New Yorkers facing eviction, after reaching a deal on the particulars with Mayor de Blasio, one of the bill’s main sponsors told the Daily News.

The Council and the mayor’s office are still hammering out final details, but the legislation includes a pilot program for legal services for NYCHA residents, said Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan).

The mayor signed on to the idea in February, after years of discussion around the legislation from Levine and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx).

Read the full story here.

Add your reaction Share

Sign up for our mailing list!

Report a Problem Participatory Budgeting Events