Legal Aid Participates In Queens Forum On Rights Of Tenants To Decent Housing

Sateesh Nori, the new Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice Queens Neighborhood Office of The Legal Aid Society, participated in a recent forum on public housing attended by hundreds of low-income New Yorkers. Nori told community residents at the forum that “You have the right to a decent, safe apartment. You have a right to complain if your landlord doesn’t give you a decent and safe apartment. To get you out of your apartment, your landlord must take you to court.” Nori said that assistance from Legal Aid is available to low-income New Yorkers regardless of their immigration status.

Queen Tribune
Housing Forum Draws A Huge Crowd
By Joe Marvilli

More than 1,000 people lined up on Union Street in Flushing, waiting to enter a public housing forum that addressed the new Macedonia Plaza housing and offered advice for renters. Held in the basement of the Macedonia AME Church at 3722 Union St. on June 27, the forum featured several speakers who gave information on how the audience could take advantage of their services. The event was organized by Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing), who said he has received a large amount of constituent questions on the topic throughout the seven months he has been in office.

“It was a loud cry for help from my community. As I stood outside addressing the hundreds of people who couldn’t fit into the forum, I felt very frustrated and sympathetic,” Kim said. “We need more affordable housing options for our hard working families and our seniors.” State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) was on hand to restate the massive need in Flushing and the City as a whole for more public housing. Although there are 22 public housing projects in Queens being run by the New York City Housing Authority, there is a long waiting list for all of them.

“With all due respect for the developers, they are not doing affordable housing and we have to pick up the slack,” Stavisky said. “This large attendance demonstrates the need for affordable housing.”

Many members of the audience asked about the progress of the under-construction Macedonia Plaza and when they would be able to apply. The Rev. Dr. Richard McEachern, the pastor of Macedonia AME church, told the crowd that applications for the 142 units in the complex will be available in August or a little earlier. Once the application is released, those interested will have 60 days to fill it out and mail it to a P.O. Box. Then the lottery process will start.

Other initiatives dealt with affordable and senior housing, as well as assistance for those having problems with landlords and finances.

“We have a panel to address your concerns and address what your needs are when it comes to housing,” Kim said. “That’s why we’re here. We care about your concerns. We want to help each and every one of you.”

Douglas Nam Le, director of policy and leadership development at Asian Americans for Equality, mentioned that the organization fights for more housing but could also offer assistance for people having trouble with landlords or foreclosure.

“We help people who want to be homebuyers or who might be facing foreclosure. We help tenants who might be having problems with their landlord to resolve that problem and stay in their homes,” he said. “We help every day with those kinds of issues.”

Sateesh Nori, executive attorney at the Queens office of the Legal Aid Society, also offered his agency’s services to those having issues with their landlords. The Legal Aid Society is available whether an individual is a citizen, has a green card or not.

“You have the right to a decent, safe apartment. You have a right to complain if your landlord doesn’t give you a decent and safe apartment,” he said. “To get you out of your apartment, your landlord must take you to court.”

Chaz Crowder from the City Human Resources Administration said his agency mainly helps people with financial difficulties, whether it be Medicaid or cash assistance. Most of the HRA’s services are for documented individuals, but those with children born in the U.S. can also apply.

“Our agency does not find housing for people, but we do assist with rental assistance for individuals that are income eligible to receive benefits,” Crowder said. “On the issue of evictions, we can help a person if they are getting evicted from their home, if you’ve had a gas cut-off notice or an electricity cut-off notice.”