Today, The Legal Aid Society called on the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) to slow the calendaring of housing court cases to ensure that low-income New Yorkers facing eviction have legal representation, as intended by New York City’s Right To Counsel (RTC) program. Due to overwhelming demand, Legal Aid announced today that attorneys will be unable to take new cases in Queens starting on April 5, 2022, potentially leaving tenants to appear without representation, a problem created by OCA’s refusal to address this post-pandemic reality. This past November, Legal Aid notified stakeholders, including OCA, about these looming issues. Last month, Gothamist reported that Legal Services NYC did not have enough attorneys to staff housing court in the Bronx, and that the number of tenants in the borough facing eviction without legal representation increased by more than 900 percent. According to recent reporting, there are currently more than 200,000 eviction cases pending in New York City Housing court, with an additional 7,000 new cases filed each month.
“For too many years, many of our most vulnerable New Yorkers faced eviction simply because they were unable to hire an attorney. During our time in the city council, we were proud to co-sponsor Intro 214-B, a landmark bill that required the Office of Civil Justice to establish a program for legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court within five years, in addition to establishing a pilot program to provide legal services to all NYCHA tenants in administrative proceedings. The passing of this bill was monumental in keeping New Yorkers in their homes, and now as we strive to recover from the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make sure we do everything in our power to keep our residents in their homes.
We stand with Legal Aid, Legal Services NYC and NYLAG in calling on the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA) to slow the calendaring of housing court cases until our tenants facing eviction have access to the lawyers they are entitled to. We must continue our fight for a fair and just housing court and end the cycle of eviction that keeps so many New Yorkers up at night worrying if they will be able to stay in their homes.”