The mayor and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that $93 million would be allocated to give free legal services to tenants facing eviction in New York City.
The Sunday prior to his State of the State Address, Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared in the UWS of Manhattan to host the Fighting to Keep NYC Affordable for You rally at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School. The event brought out the support of community housing champions and elected officials.
The star of the rally was the mayor’s Right to Counsel initiative. The mayor and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that $93 million would be allocated to give free legal services to tenants facing eviction in New York City. “To anyone being forced out of their home or neighborhood, we are fighting for you. This is still your city,” said de Blasio.
It is estimated that 90% of landlords have legal representation in housing court whereas 25% of tenants do. Right to Counsel will make free legal representation available to those making $50K and under, while free legal counseling will be open to those making more.
Luz Rosero, President of United Neighbors Organization (UNO) stated, “Many UNO members tell us the horrific experience of going to housing court alone. Now every New Yorker will have the right to a lawyer in housing court!”
Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A as part of the Right to Counsel Coalition and the NYC LEAP coalition, “played a big role in making this happen,” stated Martin Needelman (Executive Director and Chief Counsel, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A). “Brooklyn A will be with our clients and our communities, fighting side by side, every step of the way,” Needelman added. Although he cautioned that the plan has a 5-year rollout. In addition Needleman offered a counterintuitive insight, “It is also noteworthy that more lawyers for tenants can help landlords, other than those desperate to get rid of their tenants. Very often those lawyers can help low-income tenants get the money to pay the rents that they are unable to pay, which government is required by law to help pay.”
Some see this initiative more than paying for itself. Legal assistance is seen as a safeguard to affordable housing and would also prevent homelessness. The cost of relocating evicted individuals and families into the shelter system is seen as greater than it would be to hire a lawyer to defend against eviction.