Housing courts across the state can pause eviction action through September 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated by executive order Wednesday. Tens of thousands of families are still vulnerable to eviction, however.
“The order signed last night continued provisions giving the courts and litigants the leeway to suspend deadlines related to civil litigation,” Caitlin Girouard, Cuomo’s press secretary, said Thursday. “How and if they use this authority when it comes to eviction proceedings is up to them.”
Even if the courts ubiquitously halted eviction action for the next month, a large subset of renters could be evicted. That’s because eviction actions that began before the coronavirus pandemic are ongoing, Gothamist reported. Some 14,000 tenants have such eviction warrants pending.
“We’ve been sending targeted mailers this summer to tenants we identified may be at risk and are continuing that outreach, making New Yorkers aware of the resources available to them,” said Isaac McGinn, spokesperson for the Department of Social Services.
The state’s eviction protections are not enough, said Judith Goldiner, senior attorney at the non-profit Legal Aid Society.
“A lot of folks are going to be homeless for a while,” Goldiner said. “They were supposed to move, they could have moved, they agreed to move, but all of a sudden they couldn’t.”
“In the past, relatives or friends would have put them up, but now with the pandemic, people are scared,” she added.
Community organizers have demanded stronger tenant protections for months, calling on the state to “cancel rent” wholesale. Grassroots groups have coalesced around the demand, to little effect.
Cuomo is “ignoring the real issue—that tenants can’t pay—and just postponing the date of when there will be mass evictions,” Cea Weaver, an organizer with Housing Justice for All, told Curbed in May.
But community groups keep pushing for rent cancellation. On Wednesday, hundreds of New Yorkers formed a human chain in front of a housing court in downtown Brooklyn. Others occupied a property attorney’s office.
“Keep trying to evict tenants, and we’ll keep showing up and shutting down your office every day,” Housing Justice for All said on social media Wednesday.
“Other lawyers working for landlords: watch out, we’re coming for you next.”
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