De Blaso, Harlem’s Mark-Viverito, Rodriguez And Others Provide Legal Council For All Low-Income Tenants

Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed Intro. 214-B into law, and solidified the City’s commitment to providing all low-income tenants facing eviction with legal representation in Housing Court. The program, which is overseen by the Civil Justice Coordinator at the Human Resources Administration, will serve 400,000 tenants when it is fully implemented in five years.

“New York City will be the first city in country to ensure anyone facing an eviction case can access legal assistance thanks to this new law. New Yorkers should not lose their homes because they cannot afford a lawyer and stopping wrongful evictions from happening makes both ethical and economic sense,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the Council for bringing this legislation into fruition and helping keep New Yorkers in their homes no matter their income level, making our city an even fairer city for all.”

“Everyone deserves access to legal services, especially when it comes to something as important as their home,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Access to counsel is about leveling the playing field and providing all tenants facing eviction with access to legal advice or representation. No tenant should fear losing their housing simply because they could not afford a lawyer. This is landmark legislation that will greatly impact the lives of residents of this city and I want to thank Council Member Mark Levine and Council Member Vanessa Gibson for working diligently on this bill and the Mayor for his support on this critical issue of tenants’ rights.”

Prior to this legislation, nearly no tenants had legal representation in Housing Court – estimated at just 1% in 2013 by state court officials – which resulted in high incidences of evictions and unchecked tenant harassment. To help close the gap, the Administration dramatically increased the availability of City-funded legal services for low-income tenants, increasing funding for legal assistance for tenants facing eviction and harassment from $6 million in 2013 to $62 million in 2016, a tenfold increase.

The program successfully increased tenant representation in Housing Court from 1% in 2013 to 27% in 2016, and provided more than 50,000 households with legal services since 2014. At the same time, residential evictions by marshals declined by 24 percent, allowing 40,000 people to remain in their homes during 2015 and 2016.

Last February, the Administration agreed to more than double this financial support, dedicating an additional $93 million at full implementation for a comprehensive program to provide access to legal representation to all low-income tenants facing eviction proceedings in Housing Court earning up to 200% of the federal poverty line and brief legal assistance for all tenants facing eviction in court whose income is above that level. In total and once the program is fully implemented, the City will spend $155 million annually to cover the costs of the initiative.

Beginning this October, the program will also start providing legal services to NYCHA tenants in administrative proceedings to terminate their tenancy. There are approximately 3,200 cases that go through NYCHA administrative hearings annually.

To ensure that tenants know their rights and at-risk communities have access to these services, the City’s Public Engagement Unit and the Human Resources Administration will be conducting outreach across the program areas. Tenants are encouraged to call 311 if they are facing an eviction and/or visit HRA offices located in housing courts.

“Universal access to counsel in housing court will level the playing field for tenants facing eviction and prevent more New Yorkers from facing homelessness,” said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks. “This is the culmination of everything we have done over the past three years to expand access to counsel for tenants, and we’re looking forward to working with our partners in the legal services community as we implement this groundbreaking access to justice initiative.”

“By enshrining in law that all tenants facing eviction in court will have access to legal services, New York City has again demonstrated national leadership in providing access to justice and a firm commitment to a fair and accessible justice system,” said Jordan Dressler, Civil Justice Coordinator, Office of Civil Justice. “The Office of Civil Justice is honored to have the opportunity to make this historic initiative a reality for thousands of New Yorkers in need.”

“Too many of the most vulnerable New Yorkers face eviction simply because they don’t have the means to hire an attorney. The Council’s passage of this bill marked a new beginning of a new era for tenants in New York City, and I’m proud to stand with the Mayor as he signs this landmark legislation,” said Council Member Mark Levine, lead sponsor of Intro 214. “New Yorkers have a right to affordable housing and to a fair justice system. No longer will low-income New Yorkers have to fend for themselves in Housing Court. This new law is a historic step forward in the fight against unlawful evictions.”

“This is a monumental day for tenants and a historic day for the City of New York. After four years of advocating, rallying, and marching, the ground breaking legislation that will curb the homelessness epidemic and end the cycle of eviction we’ve fought tirelessly to create will become New York City law. With access to counsel in place, tenants facing eviction will finally be on an even playing field with the landlords taking them to court. I am proud to have spent four years fighting for this critically important legislation and am so thankful to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, my partner in this endeavor Council Member Mark Levine, the many elected officials, advocates, tenant leaders, clergy leaders, and civil legal service providers who joined me in securing universal access to counsel for New Yorkers and bringing equity and justice to our housing court system,” stated Council Member Vanessa Gibson, co-sponsor of Intro 214.

“Too many tenants in New York City have been evicted from their homes simply because they cannot afford legal representation,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Providing access to counsel to all low-income tenants in housing courts will go a long way in ensuring our City’s most vulnerable citizens are protected and defended. I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for signing this landmark legislation, introduced by Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, into law and guaranteeing our tenants have the rights they deserve.”

“We’re facing affordability and housing challenges like never before, and this bill demonstrates that New York City believes in fairness not just in words, but in action. For decades in housing court, the deck has felt stacked against tenants. We know it’s hard to have justice when only one side is heard – and that’s why ‘Access to Counsel’ is such a game-changer. It signals to the world that New York City stands up for everyday families,” Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “I congratulate the Mayor, Council Members Levine and Gibson, and all the advocates who fought tirelessly to make this law a reality.”

“For too long the deck has been stacked against low-income tenants, most of whom do not have attorneys, because most landlords have representation in housing court. That is no longer the case, thanks to the new system laid out by this incredibly important ‘Access to Counsel’ legislation,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for their strong commitment to tenants’ rights, and for leading us to where we are today. I especially want to thank two of my colleagues from the City Council, Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, for their tireless advocacy on behalf of this important piece of legislation. Together, we have struck a blow for a more fair and just housing court, and that is something we can all be proud of.”

“Today we are making progress for the people of New York,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “It has been a long haul securing universal access to counsel for low-income residents in housing court, and today’s bill signing is the realization of many tenant advocates’ and activists’ efforts over the years. New York City is taking a step in the right direction, and we would not be doing so today without leadership from Council Member Mark Levine and CASA, and the entire Right to Counsel Coalition.”

U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney said, “Nothing does more to ensure that all players have their say in court than access to legal services. For low income tenants, it is critical to have an advocate who understands the law and can explain their rights and obligations. I am proud that New York City is making an affirmative effort to ensure that no one has to face the possibility of losing their home without an attorney.”

“Today, New York City is making history with our efforts to protect tenant rights and ensure residents have access to legal representation when facing housing court,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat. “This especially holds true for low-income tenants and all residents who fear legal consequences or the fear of eviction. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council on the success and implementation of this initiative to protect tenants and promote progress in housing for our city.”

“Appropriate and stable housing is essential for families for their health, to succeed in work and school, and to remain safe,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, chair of Finance Committee. “Providing legal counsel in housing court for all New Yorkers is the right thing to do and an essential way to protect the rights of tenants. I applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for all the steps they have taken to bring more justice to our communities.”

“Too often, low-income New Yorkers are faced with unjust evictions but don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer to defend them in court. This legislation levels the playing field for tenants and gives them a fighting chance. I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Member Mark Levine and Gibson and the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition for their leadership on this important piece of legislation” said Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of Committee on General Welfare

“Low-income New Yorkers are one of the more vulnerable populations in the City, and in turn are in need of added resources and assistance. Unlike in criminal court, tenants are not afforded free legal counsel in housing court, giving landlords, who almost always have legal representation, an advantage. Given the housing crisis in this City and the record high number of New Yorkers living in homeless shelters, it is our duty as legislators to give all New Yorkers a level playing field in housing court,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

“The historic enactment of the Access to Counsel law will ensure that residents will now be able to have access to legal representation that can mean difference between eviction and staying in one’s home. This will also apply to NYCHA residents who face tremendous obstacles when having to deal with the court system. I applaud my colleagues and the Mayor’s Office for working together to make this a reality and for putting residents first,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of Committee on Public Housing.

“The severity of our City’s housing crisis requires strong action,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of Committee on Health. “That is why we must do everything in our power to keep tenants in their homes. Providing those threatened with eviction with access to counsel will help level the playing field and give tenants a fighting chance. I congratulate Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Mark Levine and Gibson, and Mayor Bill de Blasio on this progressive win for all New Yorkers.”

“Access to Counsel is an important victory for New York City tenants. For too long, the deck has been stacked against tenants in Housing Court, as many low-income New Yorkers could not afford legal representation. The result of this injustice was that individuals and families were left to defend themselves and oftentimes evicted from their homes. Ensuring that every city resident facing eviction has access to counsel in Housing Court will give tenants a fighting chance to defend themselves and help keep families together,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman, Chair of Committee on Courts and Legal Services.

“Predatory landlords are a tenant’s worst nightmare,” said Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “Helping renters stay in their homes prevents homelessness, but more than that, it lets low income renters exercise their rights as tenants. This law will help level the playing field between tenants and the landlords who prey on them.”

Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez said “For decades tenants have been left to fend for themselves against greedy slumlords looking to force them out onto the street. My district has seen this happen time and time again and it rips the fabric of our community at the seams. By establishing access to counsel for tenants in need, we can stem the tide of homelessness in our city, while keeping valuable members of our neighborhoods at home. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Mark Levine and my many colleagues who worked so tirelessly to move this landmark bill forward.”

“Housing is right that will now be protected by providing every New Yorker facing eviction with consultation or representation by a lawyer,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, vice-chair of the Progressive Caucus that carried the Right to Counsel in their platform. “Thank you to Mayor de Blasio and Department Social Services Commissioner Bank for their commitment to fighting homelessness with a universal access to counsel to keep residents from being evicted, in their homes and off the streets.”

“Access to Counsel is a huge victory for millions of New Yorkers as we can now fight back against the prevalent injustices and victimization of low-income tenants in New York City. Leveling the playing field by providing legal representation in housing court will provide security and economic stability for many working-class families,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “With the enactment of this legislation, New York City is sending a clear and uncompromised message that we believe tenants are entitled to safe and affordable housing free from market pressures that promote illegal harassment and displacement.”

“The Access to Counsel bill, or Intro 214-B, provides a crucial line of defense against the vicious cycle that dooms low-income residents to eviction,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “With this legislation, residents who are facing eviction and are already struggling with financial or language barriers should not have to go to Housing Court on their own. As the first city to provide universal access to counsel for low-income tenants with eviction cases, our New York City is leading the fight against displacement, and I am proud to co-sponsor this landmark bill.”

“For too long, it’s been a David vs. Goliath story for tenants in housing court — and today we’re bringing this chapter to an end,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Tenants are being challenged in too many ways and I am proud to see our city take another bold step towards supporting tenants across the five boroughs.”

“When 90% of landlords have lawyers in housing court and 70% of tenants do not, Housing Court is simply not a level playing field. By investing in lawyers for tenants, we can help keep New Yorkers in their homes, and ensure that this unjust imbalance finally comes to an end. This is a historic step in the effort to protect New York City tenants, safeguarding them from unjust and unreasonable evictions and tackling one of the leading causes of homelessness in the city. I salute my friend and colleague Council Member Mark Levine as well as Mayor de Blasio for their leadership on this critical issue,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Council Member Debi Rose stated, “Providing civil legal services to tenants not only prevents coercion and abuse, but it saves money, as well. When tenants are unsuccessful in our complex legal system—or simply give up out of frustration—their unmet legal needs invariably take a toll on local government and on the taxpayers, as evidenced by the record numbers of people housed in our city’s shelter system. I thank Council members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson for introducing this legislation, and Mayor Bill de Blasio for signing this bill, which I was proud to co-sponsor, because the long-term costs of unrepresented individuals in our legal system touch all aspects of a community.”

“New York City is making history by providing free legal advice for all tenants in housing court and full legal representation for low-income tenants. Tenants face nearly impossible odds of a just outcome in housing court without legal assistance. Universal access to counsel will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year and will help alleviate our City’s displacement crisis,” stated Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“No tenant should be threatened with the loss of her home and then forced to face housing court alone,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “I am proud NYC is taking this wise step to support our most vulnerable New Yorkers in their greatest time of need. Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio, my colleagues and tenants all over our city!”

“I am proud to be a cosponsor of the groundbreaking Access to Counsel legislation,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “Universal Access to Counsel will keep so many families in their homes. No one should be evicted simply because they can’t afford a lawyer and this legislation puts an end to that.”

“I was pleased to support my colleagues Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson in voting for what I think is game-changing legislation for tenants across New York City,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr.

“I want to commend Mayor Bill de Blasio, my colleagues in the City Council, and tenant advocates for their work on the Universal Access to Counsel bill. This important legislation is a crucial step in creating a more level playing field for tenants facing unlawful evictions. As elected officials, we must continue to do everything in our power to protect the rights of low-income tenants who face uncertain outcomes in housing court. With the signing this bill, we are making an investment in the safety and security of our hardworking families,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

“No tenant should be threatened with the loss of her home and then forced to face housing court alone,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “I am proud NYC is taking this wise step to support our most vulnerable New Yorkers in their greatest time of need. Congratulations to Mayor Bill de Blasio, my colleagues and tenants all over our city!”

“I am proud to be a cosponsor of the groundbreaking Access to Counsel legislation,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “Universal Access to Counsel will keep so many families in their homes. No one should be evicted simply because they can’t afford a lawyer and this legislation puts an end to that.”

“I was pleased to support my colleagues Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson in voting for what I think is game-changing legislation for tenants across New York City,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr.

Council Member Stephen Levin said, “Too often, low-income New Yorkers are faced with unjust evictions but don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer to defend them in court. This legislation levels the playing field for tenants and gives them a fighting chance. I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Member Levine and Gibson and the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition for their leadership on this important piece of legislation.”

Council Member Debi Rose stated, “Providing civil legal services to tenants not only prevents coercion and abuse, but it saves money, as well. When tenants are unsuccessful in our complex legal system—or simply give up out of frustration—their unmet legal needs invariably take a toll on local government and on the taxpayers, as evidenced by the record numbers of people housed in our city’s shelter system. I thank Council members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson for introducing this legislation, and Mayor Bill de Blasio for signing this bill, which I was proud to co-sponsor, because the long-term costs of unrepresented individuals in our legal system touch all aspects of a community.”

“Access to Counsel is a huge victory for millions of New Yorkers as we can now fight back against the prevalent injustices and victimization of low-income tenants in New York City. Leveling the playing field by providing legal representation in housing court will provide security and economic stability for many working-class families,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “With the enactment of this legislation, New York City is sending a clear and uncompromised message that we believe tenants are entitled to safe and affordable housing free from market pressures that promote illegal harassment and displacement.”

“Housing court should be a place where all parties compete on an even playing field. The current state of affairs, wherein low-income tenants often represent themselves against their landlord’s professional counsel, means that many tenants who have the right to stay in their homes are in fact evicted. I am glad that the Bill de Blasio administration has made universal access to legal services a priority, as it is one of the most potent tools our government has to preserve affordability in our neighborhoods and ensure basic fairness under the law,” said Senator Marisol Alcantara.

“Some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers are low income tenants that are close to facing eviction if they aren’t already going through proceedings. Often times they find themselves at a disadvantage because of their lack of access to adequate representation and legal resources against their landlords. I am glad to see Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Mark Levine join the mayor in support for advocating and protecting the rights of New York City tenants,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey.

“The treat of displacement and the loss of rent stabilized apartments is an issue our communities must confront each and every day.” The vast majority of constituents who walk into our offices are in imminent danger of losing their homes, mostly due to frivolous eviction notices filed by landlords.” said Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa “Having universal access to legal services for all low income tenants facing eviction will provide a needed lifeline to these tenants and help keep our communities intact. I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio for making this issue a priority and for investing to protect the most needy New Yorkers so that they stay in their homes.”

“For far too long most tenants in housing court have been at a disadvantage because they have faced landlords represented by expert lawyers while they have had to represent themselves. Ensuring that tenants have access to legal representation is a tremendous step towards levelling this imbalance of power,” said Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz. “Previously, landlords could manufacture eviction proceedings as a scare tactic to increase tenant turnover which lines their own pockets through vacancy increases and rent deregulation, at the expense of everyday working New Yorkers. This legislation is an important step in the fight for affordable housing, and I applaud Councilman Levine, Councilwoman Gibson, and everyone who championed this cause.”

“All New Yorkers should have access to our legal system and it is crucial to ensure that tenants in housing court have attorneys available to represent them,” Assembly Member Latoya Joyner. “By providing access to counsel, the legislation being signed into law today by Mayor de Blasio will strengthen the pillars of our legal system and move towards ensuring that the phrase ‘Justice for All’ becomes a reality for all Bronx families. I greatly appreciate Mayor de Blasio’s role in making this legislation a reality.”

“New York City’s legislation guaranteeing universal access to counsel for tenants who face eviction is a monumental, groundbreaking, transformative step forward. This is victory for human and civil rights; for equality and justice; for the right to be treated with dignity and respect in court; and for the right to safety and security in one’s home and community. This never would have happened without the masterful organizing and advocacy of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition and its many member groups and allies, the visionary, tenacious leadership of Councilmembers Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, and the de Blasio administration’s unwavering commitment to economic justice. New York City is the first place in the country to take this inspiring step. It surely will not be the last,” said Andrew Scherer, Policy Director, Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School.

“This is a huge victory for fundamental human and civil rights at a time when those rights are under attack,” said Randy Dillard, a tenant leader at Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and a leading advocate for a right to counsel since 2013. “For low-income families, keeping their home is as consequential as it gets. For the first time, New York City’s low-income tenants facing eviction will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and will have a fighting chance to stay in their homes and communities.”

“When we meet with our members In New York City, one of the first thing they always mention to us is the cost of housing and the challenges to hang on to where they live. The establishment of universal access to counsel in Housing Court is a nationally landmark moment in the prevention of homelessness and the preservation of affordable, sound housing. We are proud of our UAW members in the tenants’ rights advocacy community who have fought for decades to make access to counsel a reality. Finally, we congratulate Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Councilmembers Mark Levine and Gibson for taking this historic step to make sure tenants have the tools they need to save their homes,” said Julie Kushner, Director, UAW Region 9A.

“Universal access is a historical and groundbreaking achievement – the first program of its kind in the country,” said Adriene Holder, Attorney-In-Charge of the Civil Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Whether it’s a right to shelter for displaced and homeless New Yorkers or legal services for immigrants mired in deportation proceedings, this legislation reaffirms New York City as a champion of progressive policies that help society’s most vulnerable. We applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, and others who fought tirelessly to make this dream a reality.”

“Housing Court Answers congratulates Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Council on this historical legislation. Enactment of the Access to Counsel for tenants facing eviction will mean fair treatment in Housing Court and in administrative proceedings for tens of thousands of low income tenants. Thanks so much to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council for working with the Right to Counsel Coalition – and to the hundreds of tenants who worked on this campaign to win full access to justice for New York City tenants,” said Jenny Laurie, Executive Director, Housing Court Answers.

“It’s intimidating for tenants threatened with eviction to go to housing court alone to face landlords armed with lawyers,” said Beth Finkel, State Director for AARP New York. “Happily, the city today is leveling the playing field by ensuring such low-income tenants have their own lawyer – and saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the process. AARP applauds Mayor de Blasio for signing the first universal access to counsel law in the nation to help low-income tenants stay in their homes and out of expensive shelters. AARP thanks the Mayor, City Council Members Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the entire Council for coming together to set a new national standard.”

“The passage of this Universal Access to Counsel bill means that, for the first time anywhere in the United States, all low-income tenants will get the legal help they need to keep their homes,” said Legal Services NYC Executive Director Raun Rasmussen. “This new law will be life changing for thousands of New York City residents who no longer need to live in fear of the catastrophic impact of eviction on their health, education, safety, and general welfare. Thanks are due to the Mayor, the Speaker, Council Members Mark Levine and Gibson, and the Right to Counsel Coalition for their strong leadership. These days, when much of the news is grim for our clients, this is a historic moment that we all should celebrate.”

“Personally and on behalf of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (“Brooklyn A”), I want to express how thrilled we are at this historic moment of the Mayor signing the Universal Access bill, and taking the first and very big step in beginning the process of achieving true Access to Counsel for all lower income New Yorkers threatened with loss of their homes. Indeed, for over two years, as part of the Right to Counsel Coalition, we have been fighting to reach this day. A big, big thank you to the Mayor, and to the City Council, as well as the tenants, community organizations, and legal advocates that I have made this happen! Now onward to full implementation!” said Marty Needelman, Executive Director & Chief Counsel.

“NYLAG applauds the Mayor and City Council for taking this historic step, which makes NYC the largest jurisdiction in the nation to provide attorneys to low-income tenants facing eviction and homelessness,” said Beth Goldman, NYLAG’s President and Attorney-in-Charge. “Effective representation to tenants in Housing Court and NYCHA administrative proceedings is essential to keeping people in their homes, preserving neighborhoods, and preventing homelessness. NYLAG is proud to be part of this extraordinary effort and looks forward to working with the Administration and Council to make this commitment a reality.”

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for making access to representation available to all New York City tenants,” said Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation. This groundbreaking legislation will make our families less vulnerable to eviction and mistreatment, and our City a fairer and more stable place to live. It is a model for tenants’ rights that we hope other cities across our nation will soon follow.”

“We applaud the mayor for signing this historic legislation, organizations like Housing Court Answers and CASA who worked for years to bring it about, and leaders in the City Council including Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson, for making it a reality. Access to lawyers will help thousands of families avoid homelessness, and keep thousands of apartments affordable,” said Kenny Schaeffer, co-chair of Met Council on Housing, a city wide tenants rights organization.

“This is a historic moment for New York City and its tenants,” said Donna Dougherty, Attorney-in-Charge, JASA/Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens. “The Universal Access to Counsel bill will enable JASA’s clients, many of whom are low-income seniors, to remain in affordable housing without the fear of facing unjust evictions by themselves. Thanks to the Mayor and City Council they will now have legal support, lawyers who can fight for their right to stay in their homes and in their communities.”

“Today marks a tremendous victory for New York City and the beginning of an unprecedented effort to ensure that every low-income New Yorker at risk of an eviction gets free and adequate legal representation,” said Runa Rajagopal, Managing Director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders. “It has been a true honor to work alongside so many dedicated advocates to make this vision a reality and we look forward to working with our colleagues to support its implementation.”

“We thank Mayor de Blasio for signing into law the Access to Counsel. This legislation will protect tenants facing eviction in Housing Court. Now low income tenants have the long awaited resource to have free legal representation in housing court, this will contribute to keep tenants in their homes. We thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for standing with low income New Yorkers,” said Luz Rosero, United Neighbors Organization UNO, President.

“We are extremely excited to celebrate this vital step forward for tenants’ rights,” said Andrew Reicher Executive Director of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. “Access to Council recognizes the injustices tenants face, particularly in housing court and shifts this power imbalance which allows unscrupulous landlords to take advantage of low income tenants. We are grateful to Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council for understanding the importance of supporting tenant attorneys and organizers who are often the last line of defense for vulnerable families fighting to protect their homes.”

“It is about time that the residents of New York City have access to the legal advocacy that is needed to ensure that their rights are protected and so that they are given a fair chance to obtain a positive outcome,” said Marlen Valarezo, Esq. Supervising Attorney, N.A.I.C.A., Inc.

“In a city where affordable housing is enormously challenging for so many, this front-line legislation will help protect the most vulnerable,” said David Garza, Executive Director of Henry Street Settlement. “Since 1972, when Henry Street opened the nation’s first shelter for homeless families, we have been a leading advocate and service provider for New York City’s homeless residents, those at risk of losing their homes, and other underserved communities. We appreciate the Mayor positioning the City to take an important step forward in the fight against housing instability by providing critical support to those facing eviction.”

“We are glad that the playing field will finally be leveled in Housing Court for tenants facing eviction from their homes. Just the fact that tenants will have legal representation should curtail many of the frivolous cases being brought by landlords eager to displace long term low income tenants,” said Barbara Schliff, Director of Tenant Organizing for Los Sures (Southside United H.D.F.C)

“As a member of the Right to Counsel NYC coalition, University Settlement is fully committed to preventing homelessness. Leveling the playing field in the courtroom by providing access to attorneys is an essential step on the path to keeping vulnerable New Yorkers in their homes. We applaud the New York City Council for taking this vital action,” said Eric Weingartner, Chief Executive Officer of University Settlement, The Door, and Broome Street Academy.

“As a community advocacy organization, we are very proud to support this legislation and we thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for keeping his promise. This is a major step towards justice and equity. This is the beginning that every low-income resident living in a rent stabilized building has asked for. It is just justice and a victory in defense of the most vulnerable. Having access to legal services will keep tenants in their homes and will protect families from evictions and to reduce homelessness in New York City,” said Maritza Munoz, Housing Director for Woodside on the Move.

“Chhaya believes that access to counsel is an essential step towards establishing housing justice in our city. Far too often low-income and immigrant tenants are faced with the overwhelming responsibility of navigating the housing court system alone and find themselves severely disadvantaged from the start. This law will significantly help to level the playing field for tenants and landlords in New York City,” said Annetta Seecharran, Executive Director of Chhaya CDC.

“As a member of the Right To Counsel Coalition, CAAAV applauds the effort of thousands of tenants citywide who fought for the passage of the universal Access to Counsel bill. We thank all the Council Members who made this possible, the Mayor, and the City for listening to struggling tenants and helping to protect tenants homes and our affordable housing through RTC. Tenants in our neighborhoods are targeted by landlords for mass displacement and this critical law will help prevent displacement and loss of affordable housing. CAAAV worked with other members of the Coalition to make sure that NYCHA tenants would also be included in the legislation. CAAAV will continue to work on the implementation process to make sure that Limited English Proficient (LEP) and undocumented tenants can access the resources fairly,” said Cathy Dang, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

James Hong, Co-Director at the MinKwon Center for Community Action, stated, “As one of the city’s only legal resources for Korean-speaking tenants, the MinKwon Center recognizes the deep need for all New Yorkers, especially immigrants, to have access to an attorney when facing eviction. Universal Access to Counsel is a historic bill, helping to level a playing field in which odds are stacked massively against tenants. A chance to see justice in today’s legal system is often impossible without the assistance of an attorney – and many New Yorkers lack the resources to get this chance. We applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council for addressing this reality.”

“Tens of thousands of burdened tenants across the city will now have a fair chance to win their cases in Housing Court, in many instances against unscrupulous landlords who use eviction proceedings unfairly and as harassment. Hopefully, this will make a small dent in the escalating numbers of homeless New Yorkers. I look forward to the rollout of universal access to counsel across the city to neighborhoods where the need is most severe,” said Delsenia Glover, Director of Education and Organizing, Tenants & Neighbors.

“Access to Counsel is an essential tool to save tenants from landlords attempting to push them out. We want to make sure it is effective by implementing it well with legal partners. It is also essential that the certificate of no harassment is passed as well to be sure this is a strong as it can be,” said Corine Ombongo-Golden, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Housing Committee Leader.

NMIC is proud to stand with the Mayor and City Council in implementing Access to Counsel for low-income New Yorkers facing eviction. This historic legislation will provide the most vulnerable residents in our city the protection they need to preserve their homes thereby reducing evictions and strengthening communities,” said Rodrigo Sanchez-Camus, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, Director of Legal Services.

“Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Viverito are to be applauded. Today, New York City shows great foresight in its pioneering effort to expand access to justice to and preserve affordable housing for working poor New Yorkers and others in need. This approach is fiscally prudent in the long run as well as reflective of New York City’s history and culture of diversity,” said Dora Galacatos, Executive Director, Feerick Center for Social Justice.

“The Access to Counsel law is a monumental victory for tenants’ rights and the protection of vulnerable communities Citywide” said Benjamin Dulchin, Executive Director of the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development. “An Access to Counsel will help shift the balance of power between tenants and landlords, discourage unscrupulous landlords from using the courts as a mechanism for harassment, and keep thousands of New Yorkers in their homes.”

“NDS thanks the City Council and the Mayor for ensuring that those most vulnerable and in need of affordable, essential and stable housing will be provided access to justice. NDS is proud to be a member of the coalition, led by tenants and organizers that made this moment possible and looks forward to working with the City to bring this right to our communities,” said Vichal Kumar, Managing Attorney, Civil Defense Practice.

“This is truly an historic moment in the tenants’ rights movement. The legislation will help to stem the loss of affordable housing by providing legal representation to New York City’s low-income tenants facing eviction, thereby leveling the playing field in Housing Court where landlords have historically had the upper hand. We thank Council Members Mark Levine and Gibson for sponsoring this legislation, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor Bill de Blasio and HRA for their leadership in passing this legislation, and the Right to Counsel Coalition – led by tenants and tenant organizations – for its leadership in bringing the long struggle for a access to counsel to this point,” said Jeanette Zelhof, Executive Director, Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services).

“CAMBA applauds Mayor de Blasio and the City Council for their tremendous leadership and vision passing a new law to ensure universal access to a lawyer for tenants facing eviction. This important new protection – which demonstrates the City’s commitment to ALL New Yorkers, especially its poorest and most vulnerable – is a huge step forward for tenants here in New York City and across the nation,” said Joanne M. Oplustil, President & CEO, CAMBA, Inc.

“The world and the country appreciate NY’s leadership with HR-214, which recognizes that access to justice can make all the difference, not only by saving the home, but also in the cascade of good consequences: holding the family together, keeping the kids in their schools, saving the parents’ jobs, stabilizing the surrounding neighborhood, and, too, reducing the flood of people into the criminal justice system,” said David Udell, Executive Director, National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School.

“Because of the tenacity of tenant advocates and the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council, New York City tenants facing eviction will finally have the right to legal counsel in Housing Court. As tenants are increasingly forced into homelessness by stagnant wages and escalating rents, this important protection will ensure that they can defend their rights against unjust displacement. We are proud to have supported this effort and applaud all of those who helped make it a reality,” said Helen Schaub, New York State Director of Policy and Legislation, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

“We thank the Mayor and the City Council for making New York City a leader in the fight for access to housing justice. This landmark legislation will help thousands of New Yorkers remain in their homes and communities, including the many clients we serve who are vulnerable to eviction and homelessness. It’s important to remember that investments in eviction prevention are also investments in public health and economic stability,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

About Harlem World Magazine

HARLEMWORLDMAG.COM the #1 company in the world for all things Harlem since 2003.