NYC Councilmembers Demand That The City Stop The Evictions of 300 Sandy Survivors Living In Hotels For Evacuees; Legal Aid's Chief Attorney Says City Must Provide Housing For These Households
Steve Banks speaks at the press conference on City Hall steps. With him is City Council Member Donovan Richards, Jr.

Members of the New York Council, led by Councilmembers Donovan Richards, Jr., Brad Lander, and Melissa Mark-Viverito demanded that the City halt the evictions of 300 vulnerable Sandy survivors living in hotels. Calling the City’s action “disgraceful”, Richards charged that “these families will be forced into homelessness.” The evictions are scheduled for Friday of this week.

Speaking at a press conference today on the steps of City Hall, Councilmember Richards said these Sandy survivors “have suffered enough.” He also demanded that the City provide permanent housing resources to these households and place other evacuees in shelters.

“Though New York City has done much to assist families displaced by Hurricane Sandy, hundreds of New Yorkers still remain sheltered in hotels, awaiting repairs to their homes or seeking affordable apartments with rental vouchers that only recently became available, “ Richards said.

“It makes no sense in either fiscal or human terms to end City disaster relief assistance for Sandy evacuees who are about to relocate to permanent housing and are so close to finally regaining stability after the trauma of the last eleven months following the storm. Instead of making these Sandy survivors reapply for City shelter from another Department of Homeless Services program, they should be permitted to stay where they are so they can transition to permanent housing that is available to them. For those families and individuals who do not yet have permanent housing that they are about to move into, the City should not bounce them among an alphabet soup of City programs by putting them out of the evacuation hotels onto the streets and then sending them to apply for shelter in offices of the Department of Homeless Services. These Sandy evacuees have suffered enough since last October and since some families and individuals still need temporary shelter, it is incumbent on the City to relocate them directly from the evacuation hotels to a Department of Homeless Services shelter," said Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society which has been representing the Sandy evacuees along with pro bono counsel at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

“Despite the Court’s decision to lift the injunction that prevented the Department of Homeless Services from removing people from hotels, we urge FEMA to continue funding, and the Administration to continue managing the hotel program until those most affected by Sandy can put their lives back together,” said Councilmember Annabel Palma, Chairperson of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare. “Now is not the time to further disrupt the lives of New Yorkers who have suffered more than enough. Permanent housing— not the shelter system— can and must be the end goal for all.”

The Councilmembers were joined by representatives of the Coalition for the Homeless, The Legal Aid Society, and New York Communities for Change.

"The Bloomberg Administration's plan is both bizarre and counterproductive,” said Mary Brosnahan, President & CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless.  “It's outrageous for City officials to kick Sandy victims out on to the street, when many evacuees are still waiting for City agencies to secure the permanent housing they've already qualified for.  Perhaps the most Kafkaesque turn is that now Bloomberg officials are asking Sandy victims, who they are forcing to move into homeless shelters, to go through their rigorous application process – to establish that they are homeless!  In a nutshell, the City is making hundreds of Sandy victims literally homeless and now forcing them to prove who they are, despite the fact that the City knows all too well who these families are and exactly why they are now homeless."

The law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP issued the following statement: “We are disappointed that the City has decided to end the Hotel Program when many Sandy Evacuees are so close to moving into more permanent housing.  We hope that the City will do what its counsel represented to Justice Chan it would do – provide shelter and work to obtain permanent housing for all remaining Sandy Evacuees.”

Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change, charged that “the City has received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to assist these needy survivors of Superstorm Sandy, and yet people are still sitting in hotel rooms waiting for approval of their housing aid. There is no reason why the City could not have already moved these people out of the hotels and into apartments, and the City should allow them to stay where they are until the government has done its job.”

The City's hotel program has served more than 3,000 people displaced by Superstorm Sandy last October. The City tried to discontinue the Hotel Program in late April but was stopped by New York County State Supreme Court Justice Margaret A. Chan, who directed the City not to stop the program after it was sued by The Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, serving as pro bono counsel. On Friday, Justice Chan vacated that order and found that the City did not have budgeted funds to continue the program.