Legal Aid and Weil Gotshal Obtain Court Order Permitting Sandy Evacuees To Remain In City-Paid Hotel Rooms Until At Least May 15; Court Hearing On Extending The Order Scheduled for May 13
FRIDAY, MAY 03, 2013

On Wednesday, May 1, New York Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan extended the Temporary Restraining Order in Alycia Sapp et al v. City of New York until May 15, thereby ensuring that Hurricane Sandy evacuees living in City-paid hotel rooms will have a place to stay for at least two more weeks. Despite the fact that the City had announced at a City Council hearing on April 26 that it would end the hotel program for 196 households on April 30, the City told Justice Chan that it had paid the hotels through May 15.

On May 13, Justice Chan will hear oral argument on whether to extend the Temporary Restraining Order barring the City from cutting off rental assistance for these Sandy victims. The Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP filed this lawsuit on Monday charging that the City has not done enough to help Sandy refugees find housing and seeking to prevent the City from stopping hotel assistance for Sandy victims.

Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice's Law Reform Unit, told New York 1 that "[w]e’re very concerned that these people who have already been victims of Sandy not be re-victimized by losing their homes again. When the City creates a program for people, they can’t just take it away from people without a good reason."

The Wall Street Journal, the Staten Island Advance, and the Epoch Times also reported on the May 1 court hearing.

The Legal Aid team includes Judith Goldiner; Joshua Goldfein and Cristina Schrum-Herrara of the Society's Homeless Rights Project and Young Lee and Tashi Lhewa of the Society's Queens Sandy Unit. The Weil pro bono team is comprised of Weil partner Konrad Cailteux, associates Isabella Lacayo, Jesse Morris and Emily Pincow, law clerk Chris Lewarne, and paralegals Elizabeth McConville and Kacey Carter.

News York Tonight
NY1 (IND) New York
April 30th, 2013 8-9 PM

Lewis Dodley, Co-Anchor: After Hurricane Sandy, the city provided emergency housing and hotels to more than a thousand displaced families. While many are now in permanent homes, some are still living in hotels, but the city wants to stop footing the bill for that. Now, the case is in court. New York 1’s John Weinstein has the story.

John Weinstein, Reporter: Shawn Little and her family have been living in this Times Square hotel since November, since Hurricane Sandy filled their Queens home with five feet of water.

Shawn Little: We left with what was on our backs, came back a few days later to get what we can, but basically, not enough.

John Weinstein: The city’s paid for this space while Little tries to find a new home. It says it’s helped more than 1500 families like hers, most of which have been able to find permanent housing, but Little was told the city planned to stop paying for her rooms, and for about 200 other families, that this was never intended to be an open-ended program. She says that would be devastating.

Shawn Little: We’ll be out in the street, nowhere. This is it right now.

John Weinstein: A judge issued a temporary restraining order, forcing the city to keep paying for rooms for now. Lawyers for the Legal Aid Society are representing the families.

Judith Goldiner, Attorney: We’re very concerned that these people who have already been victims of Sandy not be re-victimized by losing their homes again. When the city creates a program for people, they can’t just take it away from people without a good reason.

John Weinstein: In testimony before the city council, Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond said some of the 200 families turned down housing options. Others, he says, don’t qualify for an apartment with the housing authority for a variety of reasons, and that’s why the city wants to stop paying for hotels. Little says she tried a number of different things, including applying for public housing, but hasn’t been successful yet. The city says she’s received monetary assistance and just needs to file more paperwork for her public housing application to resume. She says she just needs a little more time in the hotel.

Shawn Little: If only the city just gives us a little while longer. We’re just, you know, really, really determined to get out of here. We don’t want to stay. We really don’t want to stay, but we have no choice.

John Weinstein: Lawyers from both sides are due in court Wednesday afternoon as the fight continues. In Times Square, John Weinstein, New York 1.

Sandy evacuees can stay in city-paid hotel rooms for now: judge

By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters)

Hundreds of New York City residents displaced by superstorm Sandy who have been staying in hotel rooms paid for by the city can remain until at least May 15, as a lawsuit that was filed Monday seeking to stop the city from cutting off funding remains pending.

During a brief court hearing on Wednesday, lawyers for the city and the Legal Aid Society, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of several residents, agreed to return on May 13 for oral arguments on whether to extend a temporary restraining order barring the city from ending the program.

Manhattan Acting Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan issued the order on Monday.

As of last week, 488 households remained in hotels under the program, six months after Sandy came ashore on October 29, bringing devastating flooding that left thousands in the region homeless.

The city had planned to end the program for 196 of those households on April 30, but a city lawyer said on Wednesday that the city would fund the hotel rooms through May 15.

Seventy-one households had been shown public housing options in line with their incomes but refused to move, Seth Diamond, the commissioner of the city's homeless services department, told the City Council last week.

Another 125 households either did not qualify for public housing - because of reasons such as criminal history, insufficient income or previous problems in public housing - or could not be matched with appropriately sized units, he said.

The remaining 292 households are awaiting repairs to their homes or are in the process of securing Section 8 or public housing and will be allowed to stay in the hotels until the end of May, Diamond said.

Thomas Crane, a lawyer for the city, said the city had spent close to $60 million on the effort.

"We are disappointed that the TRO remains in effect, in light of the fact that the city has agreed to continue paying for the hotel rooms until May 15," he said in an email. "We believe the court will ultimately find that the city's response has been completely proper."

In a statement, the department's deputy commissioner, Barbara Brancaccio, said the program had helped more than 1,500 households but was "never intended to be open-ended."


The putative class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all 488 households still in the program and accused the city of failing to provide adequate options before seeking to terminate the funding.

Judith Goldiner, a Legal Aid attorney, said that the city's plans left Sandy evacuees worried they would have nowhere to go and disputed the city's claim that 71 households turned down viable housing alternatives.

"Over the weekend, people were really panicking," Goldiner said after the court hearing on Wednesday.

A pro bono team from Weil Gotshal is also representing the residents.

The city's program is separate from a FEMA-funded effort that also pays for hotel rooms for displaced residents. In New York, that program had 114 evacuees remaining, down from a peak of 1,070 in January, Diamond said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the FEMA program, which had been scheduled to close at the end of April, would be extended until May 29.

In New Jersey, a similar FEMA program ended on Wednesday after multiple extensions. The program assisted 2,696 households in all, according to Governor Chris Christie's office. Fewer than two dozen households will continue to receive temporary housing assistance through the Red Cross, and state agencies are working with residents on long-term housing options, a spokesman said.

The case is Sapp v. City of New York, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 450677/2013.

For the plaintiffs: Judith Goldiner, Joshua Goldfein, Cristina Schrum-Herrara, Young Lee and Tashi Lhewa of the Legal Aid Society; Konrad Cailteux of Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

For the city: Thomas Crane of the New York City Law Department.

Wall Street Journal
More Post-Sandy Hotel Time
May 2, 2013
By Josh Dawsey

Sandy refugees living in city-paid hotel rooms won't have to check out for at least two more weeks. A judge said Wednesday she'd hear arguments May 13 over whether the city has done enough to help Sandy refugees find housing, six months after the storm. The city previously told 196 households they would have to leave hotels this week.

"We are disappointed that the [temporary restraining order] remains in effect, in light of the fact that the City has agreed to continue paying for the hotel rooms until May 15," said Thomas Crane, a city attorney.

The Legal Aid Society, which says the city hasn't done enough to help families find permanent housing, praised the decision.

A version of this article appeared May 2, 2013, on page A18 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: More Post-Sandy Hotel Time.

The Epoch Times
Hearing Date Set for Hurricane Sandy Homeless in Hotels
Epoch Times
May 4, 2013

NEW YORK—A federal judge in New York City has set a May 13 hearing date for a case that will determine whether close to 200 households made homeless by Hurricane Sandy will continue to stay in hotels with city assistance.

Judge Margaret Chan ruled Wednesday that she will hear oral arguments in two weeks from the city and those representing homeless Hurricane Sandy victims.

Earlier in the week, Judge Chan ordered the city to continue paying for 488 households still in about 40 hotels in different boroughs. One hundred ninety-six of those households were due to be cut off from the program on April 30, but a last minute lawsuit filed by Legal Aid and Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP got them an extension until May 15.

“The city, when they decided to shelter the households, promised to shelter them until their old residences [were repaired] or the city found permanent housing,” said Konrad Cailteux, the lead attorney on the case from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. “The city, by ending the hotel payments without any type of proceeding, violated our clients’ constitutional rights.”

Cailteux’s law firm and Legal Aid hope to get the case to trial and get explanations about why households in the city hotel program were threatened with a cut off date before they’d found new homes.

On Wednesday night, the city attorney’s office issued a statement on the decision.

“The City has provided more than half a year of comprehensive housing and social assistance to people impacted by the storm,” stated Thomas Crane, a city attorney. “However this program, just like FEMA’s, was never intended to be a permanent solution.”

Staten Island Advance
Staten Island Hurricane Sandy evacuees granted extension on city hotel program
Ryan Lavis/Staten Island Advance
May 02, 2013

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A judge on Wednesday ordered to extend the city's hotel program for displaced victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Originally, the city had planned to kick out some 196 evacuees on April 30. But now these homeless families will be allowed to stay until May 15, said Konrad Caliteux, lead counsel for Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP -- the law firm representing the five Sandy victims who originally brought the suit against the city along with the Legal Aid Society.

Seham Abdalla, a displaced Midland Beach resident who has been staying at the Ramada in Willowbrook for three months, welcomed the good news. The extension, she said, would provide her with more time to find a permanent residence.

"Now I can figure out what to do without being afraid they'll come and lock me out," she said. "It's good news for now. I'll sleep easier tonight."

Ms. Abdalla couldn't say what lies ahead for her beyond the new eviction date.

"We'll see what happens," she said. "For now, I'm just happy I have some time."

The city Department of Homeless Services City Hotel and Interim Placement Program provided hotel rooms to Sandy victims who did not qualify for FEMA's hotel program, because they either didn't have a lease before the storm or didn't meet other requirements.

The FEMA program, which faced similar concerns from evacuees over early evictions, was previously extended to May 29.