City halts evictions due to coronavirus

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City officials have indefinitely suspended eviction proceedings in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a memo from the state’s chief administrative judge on Sunday. 

The memo from the Unified Court System last weekend said that effective at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 16, the courts would be postponing all non-essential functions until further notice, including pending trials, due to the ongoing public health emergency in New York State. 

Prior to the city’s decision to halt evictions, a group of 29 New York rental building owners and managers, including Blackstone, instituted a voluntary 90-day moratorium on evictions, which was announced shortly after the court system had issued a one-week moratorium. 

Various housing groups, including Right to Counsel NYC Coalition and Housing Justice for All, pushed a joint city and state strategy, calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to implement an eviction moratorium and to close the courts. More than 15,000 tenants across the state also signed a petition to the governor calling for an eviction moratorium and immediate rent freeze. 

Continue reading

Letters to the editor, Mar. 19

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Tenants should campaign against Blackstone 

I attended the press conference on March 5 announcing that the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association had filed legal action in New York State Supreme Court to protect about 6,200 rent-stabilized units in the community from being illegally deregulated by The Blackstone Group.

The Blackstone Group, a global private equity firm, is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). Blackstone, which is primarily owned and run by five of the greediest predators on earth, want to turn Stuy Town into a cash cow by raising rents sky high. The company is led by Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder. His net worth is $18.5 billion and he owns 231,924,793 shares or 47% of the company’s stock valued on March 5th at approximately $58 per share. His pay from 2016-2018 was $242 million.

The other four top executives at Blackstone are President Jonathan Gray (2016-2018 pay: $309 million), Executive Vice Chairman Hamilton James (2016-2018 pay: $232 million), Chief Financial Officer Michael Chae (2016-2018 pay: $65 million) and Vice Chairman J. Tomilson Hill (2016-2018 pay: $60 million).

Continue reading

Residential evictions decreasing, mayor says

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that residential evictions by marshals have decreased by more than 40% since 2013 and just in 2019, declined by 15%. The decrease in 2019 was the largest single-year decrease since the mayor signed the Right to Counsel law in 2017 and launched the city’s Universal Access to Counsel program.

More than 100,000 tenants who might have otherwise faced eviction have been able to stay in their homes since 2013 and residential evictions have been steadily decreasing in every borough.

“If we’re going to save our city, we must do everything we can to help people stay in the homes they love,” de Blasio said. “With evictions down over 40% citywide, the unprecedented investments we’ve made in tenant legal services have helped 100,000 people stay in their homes and off the street.”

More than 350,000 tenants have received assistance in evictions or other housing-related matters during the de Blasio Administration through legal services programs, including Right to Counsel, which provides tenants facing eviction in Housing Court with access to free legal services. More than 84% of tenants that received counsel in cases where they faced eviction were able to keep their apartments.

Continue reading

Councilmembers propose expansion of Right to Counsel

Councilmember Carlina Rivera spoke in support of bills that will expand Right to Counsel at a rally outside City Hall on Monday. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Councilmembers Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson lead a rally on Monday to support their new legislation that would strengthen and expand the Right to Counsel law that passed in 2017.

The Committee on the Justice System and the Committee on Housing and Buildings held a joint hearing on the two new bills following the rally outside City Hall.

New York was the first jurisdiction in the country to guarantee legal representation to low-income tenants facing eviction when the current law passed in 2017. The law mandated the Office of Civil Justice to provide tenants with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line, or $50,200 annually for a family of four, with free legal representation when facing eviction. A report from the Community Service Society of New York releases this week found that the law helped reduce evictions but showed that there were still gaps.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera, a co-sponsor of both pieces of legislation, said that the current Right to Counsel law has already helped her district.

Continue reading