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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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RIGHT TO COUNSEL A VICTORY FOR NEW YORK CITY TENANTS

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.

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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.

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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).

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Paul Massey proposes to cover city highways with parks

NY_Post.pngBy Michael Gartland

GOP mayoral hopeful Paul Massey is trying to make himself the “green” candidate — with a proposal to cover over parts of the BQE and Cross Bronx expressways with leafy new public parks.

The plan from the millionaire real-estate developer could cost as much as $400 million.

“Green growth will replace expressways with greenways across New York, providing neighborhoods with desperately needed parks and public spaces,” said Massey.

The Republican likens the plan to the Brooklyn Promenade, which hangs over the BQE — and says it would affect several areas of the two busy highways.

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Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Honored in Upper West Side Street Renaming

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By Tatyana Bellamy-Walker


UPPER WEST SIDE — Mayor de Blasio co-named 84 Street and Central Park West “Elie Wiesel Way” on Tuesday to memorialize the Holocaust survivor and renowned author.

Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and author of Night who penned his experiences as a survivor of a Nazi death camp, died last summer at the age of 87 in his Manhattan home.

During his life, the literary activist denounced war crimes and genocide across the world and was recognized for his humanitarian work. 

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“He preached tolerance of religious minorities, and knew first-hand the experience of being a refugee, and the vulnerability of living in this country without citizenship,” said Council Member Mark Levine of District 7 in Manhattan. “Mr. Wiesel’s ties to New York City were deep.  His family made their home on the Upper West Side for many years, raising their children there and attending a local synagogue. 

Levine added, “Generations to come will remember the man who made ‘never again’ among the most important words uttered in the past century.”

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Calls for Small & Large Fixes to City Congestion, Transit Woes

Gotham_Gazette.pngBy Sam Raskin

The New York City Council Committee on Transportation held a hearing Monday to discuss sources of, and solutions to, traffic congestion in the city.

City Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, chair of the committee, began the hearing by lamenting New York City’s heavy traffic. “As most New Yorkers can tell you, our streets look like parking lots,” said Rodríguez, a Democrat from upper Manhattan. In addition to economic impediments and general inconvenience, the Council member framed congestion as a safety issue as well. “More cars in our road means more dangerous conditions for cyclists, pedestrians and other street users,” he said -- Rodriguez has been a champion of the city’s Vision Zero street safety program.

Council Member Mark Levine, also an upper Manhattan Democrat, agreed with Rodríguez’s characterization of the situation and highlighted its urgency. “Congestion is at crisis levels in this city,” he said. “This is a threat to our economy, our environment, it is a safety threat and frankly, for drivers, it is driving them crazy to be stuck in traffic.”

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