As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the Daily News, and WNYC today, The Legal Aid Society, along with Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, sued New York City to prevent the eviction of 488 Sandy evacuee households who are in City-paid hotels. The City had planned to cut off hotel rental assistance payments beginning today and continuing over the next several weeks despite the fact that remaining Sandy victims have no alternative housing to move into yet.
In the case, Alycia Sapp et al v. City of New York, Justice Margaret Chan in New York State Supreme Court granted an interim order yesterday directing the City to continue to pay the hotels in order to prevent the eviction and homelessness of these Sandy impacted families. Judith Goldiner, the Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society's Civil Law Reform Practice, told the Wall Street Journal that "we were hearing from the hotels that they were going to move people out [today], so we're happy we can give these vulnerable Sandy evacuees more time to find more permanent housing situations." Goldiner told the Daily News that "[t]he City just got hundreds of millions of dollars, part of which is supposed to be for rental assistance for these families. It's premature to be kicking these families out." The City plans to contest the interim order in court today.
In addition to Goldiner, the Legal Aid team in this matter includes 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.
The Wall Street Journal
Sandy Refugees Sue to Keep Hotel Rooms
By Josh Dawsey
April 29, 2013 (published April 30)
New York City's decision to end its hotel-sheltering program for some people displaced by superstorm Sandy now faces a legal challenge.
In a lawsuit filed Monday afternoon, five evacuees represented by the Legal Aid Society asked a New York State Supreme Court judge to issue a restraining order that would prevent the city from ending its hotel program as planned on Tuesday for 196 households.
The suit says the city created the program to provide shelter "until permanent, safe and sustainable housing" was found but has failed to provide adequate help.
"There are so many ways the city of New York could find housing for these people," said Judith Goldiner, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. "Instead, they're just kicking these people to the curb. This is not an insurmountable problem for a city like New York."
Thomas Crane, chief of general litigation for the city's Law Department, said: "While we have not been served yet, the city made heroic efforts after Hurricane Sandy, and we strongly believe this complaint is without merit."
In a City Council hearing last week, Seth Diamond, commissioner for homeless services, said the city had provided $15 million in casework services to help refugees from the Oct. 29 storm find housing.
Mr. Diamond said 71 of the 196 households being removed from the program Tuesday had seen apartments that matched their income levels, but declined to take them. Others weren't eligible for apartments controlled by the New York City Housing Authority, he said.
An additional 292 households received extensions on hotel rooms because they are in the process of moving back into their homes, NYCHA units or private apartments partially paid for with government vouchers.