More Time for Hurricane-Plagued Tenants

Written by Alissa Fleck on . Posted in Breaking News, News Our Town Downtown, News West Side Spirit, Our Town Downtown, West Side Spirit.


The city’s eviction moratorium was extended post-Sandy, but tenants are left hoping they’ll have enough time

Last Thursday, Council Member Dan Garodnick, various legal groups and at least one New Yorker facing eviction convened on the steps of City Hall to push for an extension to the eviction moratorium that had been lifted the Monday before.

The New York Civil Court had initially issued a moratorium on evictions following Hurricane Sandy, but legal advocacy groups were calling for an extension, indicating that thousands of New Yorkers were still without a home after the storm.

“To resume evictions when we know many families will have nowhere to go is callous and irresponsible,” Garodnick said in a statement.

In spite of the rally’s minimal turnout among those directly impacted, the New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) has since announced it will extend the moratorium, giving tenants facing eviction until the beginning of February to catch up on past-due rent before initiating eviction procedures.

While the extension may alleviate pressure for some, one such tenant, Maria Perez, who believes she was the only person in her position at Thursday’s rally, just hopes that will be enough time for her.

“I’m meeting with a lawyer … I have my fingers crossed,” Perez said.

Perez is one New Yorker and Lower East Side resident strongly affected by the moratorium, particularly as her situation has been exacerbated following Hurricane Sandy.

She said while there are many like her, there was little to no information disseminated about the City Hall rally beforehand, making it difficult for other displaced New Yorkers to trek out and show their support and meet with the legal groups present, like MFY Legal Services.

“I know I’m not the only one going through this,” Perez said.

Nonetheless, the rally was successful for Perez, who was approached by a lawyer willing to look into her situation.

Perez has been on the brink of eviction since her daughter moved out two years ago and NYCHA’s Section 8 branch never lowered her rent. The organization has also been completely uncommunicative, she said. She said her building suffered severe damage in the storm, damage that has become yet another obstacle.

“Section 8 has been asking for things like my Con Edison breakdown,” an exasperated Perez said.

“My landlord doesn’t care if I stay,” she said. “Section 8 is the problem.”

She doesn’t blame the program entirely for their oversights, however, pointing out they are clearly overburdened. Perez said while they used to assign one worker to a set number of tenants, their offices are now an endless array of windows and chairs for waiting, and “you never see the same person twice.”

“[Hurricane Sandy] slowed down the process,” she said, as she has been trying to fight the pending eviction.

Perez said she has been unable to get in contact with the necessary people at Section 8 to resolve her situation—one she claims is an illegitimate eviction. If this was difficult prior to the storm, it’s all but impossible now.

Wasim Lone of the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) tenants organization has been helping Perez with her case.

“She has serious medical problems,” explained Lone, who was rushing off to help Perez with her situation at the time, particularly ensuring she receives her Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
“I’m sending her information to the Marshall,” he said.

“GOLES is a rat hole with five or six people working,” explained Perez. “But they are some of the few people who care.”

GOLES, which aims to give power to low-income tenants on the Lower East Side and keep them in their homes, is funded by corporations, like some banks, and various government agencies.

The process Perez describes has reportedly been laborious from the start, but the extension gives her more time to resolve the situation.

“I’m going to a Section 8 office now,” she said, after speaking with Our Town Downtown. “I hope it’s not like the zoo up on Fordham Road.”

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