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2023 Impact Reception

View or download the invitation as a PDF

Thank you for your interest in the 2023 Impact Reception hosted by Catholic Migration Services! This year’s event was held at The Malt House, located at 9 Maiden Lane, New York, NY on Wednesday, August 2, 2023 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Catholic Migration Services honored the legacy of Mark Von Sternberg, an immigration professor and lawyer who recently passed away, Andrew Lehrer, former Managing Attorney, Tenant Advocacy Program, and WilmerHale, a firm that has co-counseled several wage/hour and asylum cases.

If you’d like to continue to support the work of Catholic Migration Services through a financial contribution, please click here.

 

Thank You to Our Sponsors

 

DIAMOND

 

GOLD

Suzanne and Mark Colodny

SILVER

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Iannelli Construction Co. Inc.

Cullen and Dykman LLP

 

BRONZE

mdafp

Kakalec Law PLLC

Law Office of Robert McCreanor P.L.L.C.

Joseph Rosato

 
 

PRESS MENTION: Queens residents in rent-stabilized buildings take aim at Zara Realty, claim tenant abuse

Queens residents in rent-stabilized buildings take aim at Zara Realty, claim tenant abuse

July 31, 2023
By Elle McLogan

(Courtesy of CBS New York)

NEW YORK — Zhao Yu Zhen lives in an apartment on Ash Avenue in Queens, but it’s hard for her to get in the building.

“Every time, I can’t get in,” she said in Chinese. “There’s no key.”

Since Zara Realty took over their building in Flushing, she and her neighbors say they’re asked to produce birth certificates, marriage licenses, even high fees for access to their own homes. In some cases, a family of five is given only one key to the entrance.

Residents from some of Zara’s nearly 40 rent-stabilized buildings across the borough, with support from attorneys and elected officials, are protesting what they call tenant abuse.

“I can’t find anyone who can help me,” said Zara tenant Moream Pervin, who lives in Jamaica.

She said she received notice her rent could go up by hundreds of dollars per month. She and the majority immigrant and low-income tenants believe it’s part of an effort to force them out.

They say Zara is skirting rent stabilization through the use of MCIs, or major capital improvements, which are building upgrades tenants say they don’t want, like masonry and waterproofing.

Meanwhile, they claim, the real issues go unaddressed, like mold, pests, inconsistent heating, and accessibility failures.

Zhao Yu Zhen said she has told her building’s superintendent about her broken stove and plumbing problems, but that he claims he can’t help her.

Zara Realty has been under scrutiny for years. State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in 2019 against the corporation for unscrupulous practices, which is pending.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Zara Realty told CBS New York, in part, “The company provides quality, compliant, affordable housing and refutes the baseless accusations” and “City public records show that the company is in compliance with ADA accessibility guidelines as well as heating and hot water requirements.”

Zara describes the withholding of keys as a safety measure to prevent illegal subletting. The spokesperson went on to say that MCIs are essential for upkeep and are okayed by the state.

The New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the department responsible for approving MCIs, declined to comment on Zara Realty due to open litigation, but said that each MCI is carefully reviewed.

Tenants claim that when the landlord caught wind of their planned rally on the steps of a Zara building in Flushing on Thursday, their meeting spot was suddenly closed off for a paint job.

“That was just to block us from not using the steps to organize,” renter Maria Jenny Lopez said.

When Douglas Ostling’s son needed daily therapy appointments for his multiple sclerosis, the building denied the family access to ramps, Ostling claims.

“You can’t bring someone in a wheelchair down stairs,” he said.

Ostling says he stopped asking for a ramp when his son died four months ago.


PRESS MENTION: Flushing tenants speak out against Jamaica real estate company’s alleged harassment, unlawful rent increases

Flushing tenants speak out against Jamaica real estate company’s alleged harassment, unlawful rent increases

July 31, 2023
By Carlotta Mohamed

Photo courtesy of Legal Services NYC

During one of the hottest days in New York City on Thursday, July 27, Imran Patel, a Flushing resident at 140-60 Beech Ave. claimed that he and his family are facing eviction by Jamaica-based real estate company Zara Realty for putting an air conditioner in their apartment.

“We’re in the middle of a heatwave here in NYC and they’re threatening to kick us out of our home because we want to be able to live in this heat,” Patel said. “They claim that we’re violating the lease, but nothing in the lease says that we can’t have an AC in the window. They gave us no warning — the super had even told me two years ago that it was fine, but two weeks ago we were given a notice that Zara wanted to evict us.”

A spokesman for Zara Realty said Patel’s claims for not being able to have air conditioning in his apartment is false and is a safety concern. According to the company, the building has air conditioner sleeves and the tenant refused to install the air conditioner where it is supposed to be.

“Putting the air conditioner in the window is a significant risk to health and human safety as it could fall out of the window onto someone below causing serious injury or death,” the spokesman said. “The air conditioner sleeve is the appropriate, safest, and approved place for the air conditioner unit, not the window.”

Patel, who has been living at the apartment for 20 years, was joined by rent-stabilized tenants from two other buildings owned by Zara Realty (140-30 Ash Ave. and 140-50 Ash Ave.) at the July 27 press conference in calling out the company for alleged harassment of immigrant tenants, including asking for birth and marriage certifies, excessive fees for keys, and increasing rents by nearly $300 per month.

The tenants are being organized by CHHAYA CDC and Catholic Migration Services and represented by Queens Legal Services’ Tenant Rights Coalition.

“Zara has been continuously harassing us since they bought the building in 2019—there is no peace,” Patel said. “When Zara changed the locks, they only gave us one key for our family of five. We still only have one key. We have leaks and mold in our bathroom; the electrical outlets are loose and often don’t work.”

“And I’m not the only one,” Patel continued. “They’ve started eviction cases against a few other families in the building for the same reason. I’ll fight back and I know I will win, but I also know that for every tenant like me, there’s another who would move out of fear because an eviction record can destroy your chance at finding a home.”

After two years, Maria Jenny Lopez, a tenant of 140-30 Ash Ave., was able to get a key for her brother who lives with her. Lopez claims she suffered harassment, including Zara employees on the fire escape taking pictures through her window.

“Other tenants are still waiting for a key and are forced to pay up to $100. It’s outrageous for such a simple yet important thing. They are also asking us for marriage or birth certificates. This isn’t right. That is abuse. That is harassment,” Lopez said.

Doug Ostling, a tenant organizer and resident of 140-50 Ash Ave., said he’s “sick and tired of Zara’s harassment tactics and attempts” to raise their rents.

“This is our home. This is our community. We pay our rent just like everyone else, but Zara continues to harass us and treat us like pawns in their money-making schemes,” Ostling said. “They don’t make basic repairs and then try to raise our rent? Enough is enough. We just want to live peacefully and in safe and livable homes!”

The tenants claim Zara is trying to unlawfully raise rents by filing Major Capital Improvement (MCI) applications with the NYS Department of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR), the state agency that oversees rent-stabilized buildings in New York.

They’re calling on DHCR to deny Zara’s applications due to building disrepairs and apply the letter of the law which prohibits MCIs while certain violations exist.

The tenants allege that there is a lack of heat and hot water, roaches and mice infestation in the hallway and basement, leaking roofs, broken garage chutes, and security cameras they can’t access. According to the tenants, Zara’s repairs include “patchwork jobs” that quickly fall back into disrepair.

Zara Realty, which manages about 2,500 rent-stabilized apartments in Queens and surrounding areas, was sued in 2019 by New York State Attorney General Letitia James over violations of New York’s rent stabilization and tenant harassment laws.

In response to the Flushing tenants’ allegations, Zara Realty said it “provides quality, compliant, affordable housing and refutes the baseless accusations.”

“The company’s unwavering commitment remains in providing top-notch homes for its tenants that are clean, safe and modernized — meeting the standards set by all New York City and New York State climate laws and mandates,” the company said in a statement.

According to Zara, it cannot raise rents or MCI costs without the city or state approval.

“It is important to note that the process for any major capital improvement (MCI) project at a rent-stabilized building requires that tenants weigh in and landlords establish cause, that is before state regulators authorize any related cost increase,” Zara Realty said in a statement. “The company continually makes quality capital investments in all its properties, as approved by New York State and, in turn, any cost increases incurred by our tenants are directly authorized, in advance, by those same state regulators.”

According to Zara, the company is years ahead of the 2025 and 2030 environmental standards set for building owners that city and state regulators have mandated to “decarbonize, solarize rooftops, and replace older heating and hot water systems with cleaner, greener energy efficient models” to boost performance while reducing emissions.

In regards to safety, Zara said it reaffirms “its stance on tenants to respect the safety and security of neighbors and buildings where they live,” while noting concerns of “unauthorized people gaining access to their building.” Zara also noted that city public records show it’s in compliance with ADA accessibility guidelines, as well as heating and hot water requirements.

Meanwhile, organizers said their demands are clear.

“Audit all MCI in the Zara portfolio and pause all current MCI until the audit is complete,” said Rima Begum, associate director of the Housing Stability Program at Chhaya CDC.

Xiaowen Liang, an attorney at Queens Legal Services’ Tenant Rights Coalition, said Zara’s deceptive rent practices and intimidation have gone on for too long.

“It’s time for the NYS Department of Homes and Community Renewal to step up and apply the law fairly by denying these unlawful MCI applications,” Liang said. “These tenants deserve better. They deserve dignity and respect and they deserve to live in safe and affordable homes. We won’t stop fighting until Zara is held accountable and puts an end to their exploitation of these tenants and their families.”

Local elected officials, such as State Senator John Liu and Congresswoman Grace Meng, are supporting those who are speaking out against Zara Realty.

“Zara has a long history of mismanagement and harassment in its buildings and this example here in Flushing is one the worst,” Liu said. “Using MCIs to improperly increase rents while buildings sit in rampant disrepair with outstanding violations is totally unacceptable. Enough is enough.”

Meng said that tenant harassment is “unacceptable” and must not be tolerated.

“No New Yorker deserves to be subjected to harassment, unfair treatment and adverse conditions by their landlord and that includes those who reside in apartments owned by Zara Realty,” Meng said.


PRESS MENTION: Rosato reigns supreme: Celebrated trial attorney takes helm of the Brooklyn Bar Association

Rosato reigns supreme: Celebrated trial attorney takes helm of the Brooklyn Bar Association

June 22, 2023
By Rob Abruzzese

Joseph Rosato was installed as president of the Brooklyn Bar Association during a ceremony at Borough Hall. Pictured with Rosato (right) is Past President Gregory Cerchione (left) and Hon. Lawrence Knipel, the administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term. Brooklyn Daily Eagle photos by Mario Belluomo.

The grand ceremonial courtroom at Borough Hall bustled with anticipation as the Brooklyn Bar Association held its annual Induction Ceremony on Wednesday, June 14. The ceremony honored the installation if its new president, officers, and trustees.

The star of the event, Joseph Rosato, a renowned trial attorney and community pillar, stepped into the role of president amid friendly jibes likening the ceremony to his bar mitzvah.

The Rosato family including wife, Fran Rosato (in white).

This isn’t Rosato’s first time leading a bar association. his impressive resume includes presidencies at the Nathan R. Sobel Inns of Court, The Columbian Lawyers Association, and the Catholic Lawyers Guild. In a scene familiar yet significant, Hon. Matthew D’Emic, Rosato’s best friend, carried out the induction ceremony.

“There is a history I have with almost everyone in this room over the years, and the memories are just precious,” Rosato remarked, brimming with gratitude. “I want to thank everyone for taking the time to be here today.”

Rosato steps into his role as president at a time of cautious optimism. The bar association , like many organizations, has weathered significant challenges over the past few years due to the pandemic. However, Rosato, demonstrating his characteristic resilience, believes better days are on the horizon.

“These past few years, for all of us, have been somewhat difficult, and I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel better,” he said, displaying his natural leadership and empathetic understanding. He optimistically spoke of the Association’s future, stating, “The bar association is improving, try to come by.”

Rosato is a renowned trial attorney whose reputation precedes him, both for his courtroom successes and his unfaltering commitment to legal reform and mentorship. His work has resulted in over two hundred million dollars in verdicts and settlements, cementing his position as one of the industry’s most effective and driven advocates.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Rosato received his undergraduate degree from New York University before attending Brooklyn Law School while working full-time as a court officer.

Borough President Antonio Reynoso welcomed the Brooklyn Bar Association to Borough Hall for the ceremony.

Rosato began his career in the insurance defense field before moving to the preeminent plaintiff’s personal injury firm of Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek and Shoot in 1996. There, he honed his skills as a trial attorney, particularly in complex litigation. His career trajectory led him to merge with the legendary attorney Johnnie Cochran, forming the New York office of the Cochran Firm.

Even amidst his rigorous legal practice, Rosato found time to dedicate his energies to the betterment of the legal community. his dedication led him to serve as president of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn, the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kings County, and the Nathan R. Sobel Inns of Court.

New officers installed (from left): Bruno Codispoti, Daniel Antonelli, Christina Golkin, and Anthony Vaughn, Jr.

His contributions to the legal profession extend beyond his presidency roles. He is a member of the Independent Judicial District, the Judicial Screening and Grievance Committees for the Brooklyn Bar Association, and a Master in the King’s County Inns of Court. His volunteer work also includes serving on the board of Catholic Migration Services of the Diocese of Brooklyn, providing legal assistance and outreach to immigrant communities.

Rosato was not the only one to step into a new role last Wednesday. The ceremony also saw Anthony Vaughn, Jr., become president-elect, Christina Golkin as first vice president, Daniel Antonelli as the second vice president, Angelicque Moreno as secretary, and Bruno Codispoti as treasurer. The newest trustees included Imran Ansari, Grace Borrino, Andrea Caruso, Adam Kalish, Daniel Miller, Joy Thompson, and Joseph Vasile, heralded as some of Brooklyn’s most respected young attorneys and future BBA leaders.

New trustees installed (from left to right): Joseph Vasile, Adam Kalish, Andrea Caruso, and Grace Borrino. Not pictured are Imran Ansari, Daniel Miller, and Joy Thompson.

The 150-strong audience witnesses warm praise for Rosato from the assembled dignitaries.

“He’s going to be one of the best presidents that we will have,” said Hon. Frank Seddio. “His John Hancock will be signed right on top of our records, and he will build on top of the foundation that was there so we will truly be the palace that we should be and the primary bar association in the entire state of New York.”

From left: Joseph Bova, Gregory LaSpina, Hon. Frank Seddio, Joseph Rosato, and Yolanda Guadagnoli, president of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn.

Hon. Ingrid Joseph, a longtime friend of Rosato, fondly recounted their early years of camaraderie. “I don’t remember who we met, but Joe had a friendly and outgoing personality, and I felt a kinship with him from the beginning,” she shared.

Judge Ingrid Joseph and Joseph Rosato.

With his installation as the BBA president, Rosato sets out to make his mark on the organization, bringing years of leadership experience and an unwavering commitment to the legal profession. The coming term under his presidency promises renewed vigor for the association as it continues to navigate and adapt to the challenges ahead.

From left: Hon. Commie Mallafre Melendez, Hon. Bernard Graham, Dean Delianites, Hon. Rosemarie Montalbano, and George Farkas.

Read the original story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Rosato reigns supreme: Celebrated trial attorney takes helm of the Brooklyn Bar Association

PRESS CLIP: In the Absence of a National Strategy, Asylum Application Help Center Will Provide Thousands of Asylum Seekers in NYC Assistance to Submit Asylum Applications, First Step Toward Work Authorization

In the Absence of a National Strategy, Asylum Application Help Center Will Provide Thousands of Asylum Seekers in NYC Assistance to Submit Asylum Applications, First Step Toward Work Authorization

City Will Also Continue to Support Non-Profit Legal Providers and Pro Se Clinics with $5 Million Investment

 

By The City Life Org
June 20, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced the Asylum Application Help Center, which will offer thousands of asylum seekers assistance in completing and filing asylum applications as they seek a new life in the United States. While the tens of thousands of migrants that have arrived in New York City over the last year seeking shelter have already been paroled into the country by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, many have not officially filled out their asylum applications, delaying their eligibility for work authorization. Opening in the coming weeks — in consultation with immigration legal service providers and with the initial pro-bono support of the law firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP — the Asylum Application Help Center will help thousands of asylum seekers currently in New York City apply for asylum, bringing them one step closer to being eligible for work authorization. Interested asylum seekers will schedule a one-on-one appointment at the application help center, where trained application assistants will work with the applicant to answer questions. Experienced immigration lawyers will be on site to supervise application assistants and provide guidance, and interpreters will be on site to provide in-person language assistance. Mayor Adams also encouraged New Yorkers interested in working at the Asylum Application Help Center to apply immediately.

“Throughout this crisis, New York City has led the nation in answering the call to support arriving asylum seekers, and we are doing that again today,” said Mayor Adams. “The Asylum Application Help Center will assist the asylum seekers in New York City through the complex federal immigration process, bringing them one step closer to being eligible for work authorization and the ability to support themselves. We must act swiftly to ensure the well-being of the thousands of migrants whose deadline to submit an asylum application is fast approaching, and this center will help us do that. I encourage New Yorkers to join this unprecedented effort by applying today to work at our center.”

“Legal services are a critical next step in the city’s approach to support people seeking asylum as they work to achieve independence,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “The city is making important investments in the Asylum Application Help Center in partnership with a number of private sector partners. Thank you to all the firms, legal professionals, and everyday New Yorkers that are and will be a part of this effort. Ultimately, if we all work together with a national strategy for a national issue, we can address this humanitarian crisis.”

“The necessary first step toward work authorization — and a new life in this country — is a completed asylum application,” said Chief Counsel to City Hall Brendan McGuire. “By scaling up this help center to aid thousands of asylum seekers, this administration is providing targeted assistance to those who need it urgently.  And we are not doing it alone.  The non-profit community, the private immigration bar, and many of the city’s leading law firms have answered the call.  We are grateful to all of them and look forward to growing this effort in the weeks ahead.”

“The Asylum Application Help Center represents another comprehensive measure taken by the City of New York to respond to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” said New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix. “I commend those who are a part of this valiant effort to assist individuals through the federal asylum application process. This can be a daunting task for new arrivals. The help center will provide much needed guidance and assistance to asylum seekers as they forge their path towards self-sufficiency and a new life in our city.”

“Since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis, our administration has gone beyond our moral obligation to humanely support our newest New Yorkers and help them integrate into our city,” said Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manual Castro. “The Asylum Application Help Center is a historic step New York City is taking with private and non-profit partners to help asylum seekers meet their one-year application deadline. While we await a national strategy, the city will continue to meet the needs of this crisis.”

“New York City is a beacon of hope for so many seeking asylum, and volunteers continue to support individuals and families through their time, talents and donations. NYC Service is proud to offer free capacity building tools for organizations or programs supporting people seeking asylum, including the ability to recruit volunteers and receive in-kind donations,” said Chief Service Officer Laura Rog. “I encourage organizations to register on nyc.gov/service to connect to New Yorkers who want to help. To all the talented New Yorkers who want to get involved but aren’t sure how, register online to answer the call to serve.”

The Asylum Application Help Center will operate Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM in the American Red Cross Greater New York headquarters in Midtown Manhattan by appointment only. The city continues to expand access to immigration assistance for recently arrived immigrants through ongoing and increased investments in its network of contracted immigration legal services providers. In addition to the Asylum Application Help Center, the city will invest $5 million to continue supporting a range of legal providers, including Lutheran Social Services, African Services Committee, Catholic Charities Community Services, and the Pro Se Plus Project (comprised of the New York Legal Assistance Group, Central American Legal Assistance, UnLocal, African Communities Together, Masa, and Catholic Migration Services) operating pro se clinics and hosting information sessions at the American Red Cross Greater New York headquarters.

In the coming weeks, the other support services offered at the Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center — currently operating at the American Red Cross Greater New York headquarters — will transition to the city’s Asylum Seeker Arrival Center based out of The Roosevelt Hotel. These services include New York City Department of Education school enrollment, Fair Fares enrollment, IDNYC, health insurance enrollment, and access to mental health counseling.

Helping asylum seekers to file asylum applications delivers on promises made in Mayor Adams’ “The Road Forward: A Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis,” released this spring. The Adams administration also continues to strongly urge the federal government to immediately use every tool at its disposal to protect and support newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers — and the municipalities supporting them — by expanding Humanitarian Parole and Temporary Protected Status, and expediting asylum-based work authorization.

Since this humanitarian crisis began, the city has taken fast and urgent action, opening a total of 175 emergency sites to provide shelter to asylum seekers, including 11 additional large-scale humanitarian relief centers; standing up navigation centers with support from community-based organizations to connect asylum seekers with critical resources; enrolling thousands of children in public schools through Project Open Arms; and more.

“Cleary Gottlieb is committed to assisting vulnerable asylum-seekers located in New York City to apply for relief, and to working alongside our partner organizations in these efforts to leverage our long-standing experience and expertise in humanitarian immigration law,” said Michael A. Gerstenzang, managing partner, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

“We stand ready to help with this first step towards getting people authorization to work,” said Brad S. Karp, chair, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. 

“Simpson Thacher has a long-standing commitment to providing legal services to migrants fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries,” said Josh Levine, co-chair, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP’s Pro Bono Committee.  “We recognize that the number of immigrant families arriving daily into New York City has reached an unprecedented level and we stand ready to help the city with the services needed to help these children and adults apply for asylum.”

“This crisis calls for tenacious professionalism to help those striving to make a new home in New York,” said Bret Parker, executive director, New York City Bar Association and Kurt M. Denk, executive director, City Bar Justice Center. “Our organizations and others like ours have seen the difference that pro bono legal services can make in times of emergency, and we’re confident that approach will have an impact here as well.”

“American Immigration Lawyers Association New York Chapter welcomes New York City’s efforts to provide support to the thousands of asylum seekers in need of assistance,” said Kushal Patel, chair, American Immigration Lawyers Association New York Chapter (AILA NY).

“The American Immigration Lawyers Association of New York City is proud to be included in this initiative to assist asylum seekers navigate the complex U.S. immigration system,” said Neena Dutta, advocacy chair, AILA NY. “Our organization is comprised of over 1,700 private and non-profit immigration lawyers and nationwide the association has over 18,000 members. We know first-hand the issues facing newly arrived immigrants, and the consequences of poor or no representation. Less than 37 percent of immigrants and 14 percent of detained immigrants are represented by counsel. Immigrants who are represented are five times more likely to win their cases with an attorney than without and detained immigrants are 11 times more likely to pursue relief when they have legal counsel. Court data regarding unaccompanied children shows that when represented, 73 percent are allowed to remain in the U.S. when represented, whereas 15 percent are allowed to stay when unrepresented. We look forward to tackling this issue at our doorstep as the country has not had comprehensive immigration reform for three decades. We applaud the mayor’s office for taking this crucial step which recognizes a dire need and a human right, and hope that other cities will follow suit and adopt similar programs.”

“I commend the City of New York for bringing to scale a practice that immigrants seeking asylum have engaged in for years: pro se representation,” said Angela Fernandez, executive director, Safe Passage Project. “There are not enough immigration lawyers to provide representation to our newest neighbors, so by coordinating and leveraging resources, the city is helping ensure that asylum seekers get a fair shot in this complex legal process.”

“Lutheran Social Services is proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in their efforts to assist the thousands of asylum seekers who have come to New York City seeking refuge,” said Cecilia Aranzamendez, executive director of Community Services, Lutheran Social Services of New York. The establishment of the Asylum Application Help Center is a crucial step in addressing the needs of asylum seekers and further demonstrates New York City’s longstanding commitment to supporting and upholding the dignity of this very vulnerable population.”

“It is crucial that asylum seekers have access to quality legal representation so that they may find more stability for themselves and their families,” said Theo Oshiro, co-executive director, Make the Road New York. “Today, New York City is taking an important and significant step to make this a reality. We look forward to working with the city to make this initiative a success and to continue to innovate ways to support asylum seekers.”

Read the original story in The City Life Org: In the Absence of a National Strategy, Asylum Application Help Center Will Provide Thousands of Asylum Seekers in NYC Assistance to Submit Asylum Applications, First Step Toward Work Authorization

Catholic Migration Services is a member of the Pro-Se Plus Project and has been providing assistance to new immigrants arriving in New York City.

Letter to the Members of the Board Regarding the 2023 Rent Guidelines Proposals

 

 

 

 

June 8, 2023

From: Catholic Migration Services, Tenant Advocacy Legal Team
To: The New York City Rent Guidelines Board

 

Re: 2023 Rent Guidelines Proposals

Dear Members of the Board,

We respectfully request your consideration of this letter in connection with this year’s rent guidelines. Professionally, we are legal services attorneys who represent low-income tenants, mostly in Queens. Personally, some of us are also tenants of rent stabilized apartments.

We write to ask you to please not increase the rent at all, or if there must be an increase, keep the rent increases as low as possible. As you are aware, many tenants throughout New York City, and especially in the outer boroughs, are still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many low-income tenants used up whatever meager savings they had to stay afloat while out of work during the pandemic, and many fell behind on rent. Many of our clients have been unable to rejoin the workforce because of health issues resulting from long COVID. Some household incomes have decreased by half, or more, because a breadwinner died from the disease.

Now, as the city emerges from the pandemic, tenants are faced with another challenge: inflation. For those who were able to go back to work, their wages have not kept up with the rising cost of living: the 2023 RGB I&A Report found that wages adjusted for inflation in NYC decreased by more than 2% (page 8). As the costs of food, transit, and other necessities continue to rise, tenants have less and less income to spend on rent. Most of our clients already spend far more than the recommended one-third of their income on housing costs, including rent and utilities. If rent stabilized rents increase significantly, they will be spending even more. Many of these clients are working people – their incomes are just high enough to make them ineligible for housing subsidies, yet not high enough to afford rent increases along with other household necessities like food.

Meanwhile, the increases landlords have received over the years are more than their own self-reported alleged increases in expenses. While landlords profit, poor and even middle class tenants are being evicted because they cannot afford these increases; despite these profits, many of our community members live in apartments and buildings in varying states of disrepair.

On a personal note, some of the signing attorneys are tenants of rent-stabilized apartments, which we can just afford despite being two-income professional households with no children. If we can’t afford a rent increase, think of the majority of our community members that likely earn substantially less.

New York’s rent stabilized housing stock has the potential to offer stability, allows tenants to plan for the future, and to keep contributing to their communities. The option to renew a lease, however, is only meaningful if tenants can renew at an affordable rate. Dramatic rent increases that tenants cannot afford will lead to more eviction and displacement throughout New York City. Please do your part to fight displacement, and to keep New York City affordable for New York’s tenants.

Thank you for your consideration,

Jonathan Cohen, Kelly Horan, Samantha Lyons, and Sarah Hainbach
Tenant Advocacy Attorneys at Catholic Migration Services


To give an in-person testimony to the board, attend an in-person meeting: 

  • Queens – June 12 at Jamaica Performing Arts Center located at 153-10 Jamaica Ave, Jamaica, NY 11432 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Brooklyn – June 15 at St. Francis College located at 179 Livingston St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
To testify digitally: 

Download this letter as a pdf: Letter to the Members of the Board Regarding the 2023 Rent Guidelines Proposals

 

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Serves Approximately 7,000 Asylum Seekers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 12, 2023

 

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Serves Approximately 7,000 Asylum Seekers
Agency Prepared to Assist New Influx Expected with End of Title 42 Public Health Order

 

Brooklyn and Queens– Recognizing the plight of asylum seekers traveling through the southern border and their difficulties upon arriving in New York City, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has organized a collective response in both boroughs to welcome and provide essential emergency services to the new arrivals and their families. Since July 2022, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has served approximately 7,000 asylum seekers—and provided a total of 22,000 service units.

As one of the leading social service providers at the New York City Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has intimately engaged with the City to provide the services the asylum seekers need upon arrival. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens’ programs and affiliates offer asylees limited financial assistance, emergency food and food pantry access, hot meals, clothing, diapers, English as a Second Language classes, access to WIC nutrition programs, NYC ID referrals, workforce development resources and MetroPlusHealth insurance.

For new arrivals with children, in addition to WIC nutrition services, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens also offers resources, information and referrals to Catholic Charities Head Start programs and New York City schools.

“The new arrivals are leaving horrendous situations in their home countries in search of safety, work, and an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. The parishes are doing an incredible amount of work with us to help them acclimate to New York City and we couldn’t do the work we are doing without them,” said Reverend Monsignor Alfred P. LoPinto, President and Chief Executive Officer, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and Affiliated Agencies. With the Title 42 public health order set to end, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, affiliates and parish partners–while at capacity, is prepared to continue providing services as needed.

Catholic Migration Services, Inc., a Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens affiliate, has provided legal services to over 200 new arrivals, participated in multiple legal workshop clinics, and provided training to volunteer legal advocates to help with the surge of new migrants who have entered New York City over the last year.

Recently, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens began offering free Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction worker training workshops at local parishes, ensuring their safety as they prepare to work in the future.

Parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn, particularly those close to shelters where asylees are placed, have opened their doors to make their facilities available for OSHA training, hot meals, clothing drives, and baby showers for new and expectant parents.

About Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens:
For over 124 years, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been providing quality social services to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens and currently offers 160-plus programs and services for children, youth, adults, older adults, and those struggling with mental illness. Since 1975, Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation, the affordable housing developer of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, has been transforming vacant land and buildings into affordable housing units and transforming the lives of individuals and families, and completed more than 4,567 units with supportive services for seniors, families, veterans and the formerly homeless. Since the pandemic began, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has provided much-needed food packages and services at 60 Catholic Charities parish-based food pantries and has distributed over $12 million in food assistance. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens continues to deliver crucial mental health counseling, housing services, family services, early childhood education, and emergency services. Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens continues to deliver crucial mental health counseling, housing services, family services, early childhood education, and emergency services. For more information, please visit https://www.ccbq.org/annual-report-2022/ and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @cathcharitiesBQ or @catholiccharitiesBQ.

PRESS CLIP: As Title 42 Expires, New York Immigrant Advocates Keep Working

As Title 42 Expires, New York Immigrant Advocates Keep Working
By Fisayo Okare
MAY 09, 2023

 

After three years of using Title 42 to control the number of migrants crossing the border, the policy will finally expire tomorrow.

Title 42’s stated objective was to suspend the “introduction” of certain individuals who have been in “Coronavirus Impacted Areas,” and was used to expel many migrants at the southern border without letting them seek asylum. The federal government ended the national health emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic last month, consequently necessitating the end of Title 42 too.

The number of undocumented migrants crossing the border has recently been estimated at around 7,500 per day. However, U.S. officials expect that number to increase to 13,000 each day as soon as Title 42 ends.

This means that destination or transitory cities that many migrants head to — such as New York City — are likely to see more migrants arrive.

A key question remains: Will New York City be able to provide necessary humanitarian services — shelter, food, and legal assistance — to migrants if there is an increased need?

Organizations Documented spoke to are continuing their work of providing information to migrants, connecting them to resources, and strengthening their ability to represent themselves in court. That includes UnLocal, which provides direct immigration legal representation and education to immigrants.

“We have experience in working with people who are seeking asylum, we have experience in working with people who are looking for humanitarian options for their immigration status,” UnLocal Executive Director Terry Lawson said. “And we are spending a lot of time at UnLocal thinking through Pro Se options with our community partners, and really doing our best in whatever ways we can.”

Community supporters, volunteers, and pro bono attorneys have been helping recently arrived migrants to receive Pro Se assistance in completing and filing their asylum and work authorization applications. The Pro Se Plus Project, which UnLocal and its partners run, trains people to understand the requirements for asylum so that they too can help recently arrived migrants.

“We want people to have access to information, and teach them what to do when you are in court,” Lawson said. This includes how to fill out an I-589 asylum application form. “So that we take away some of the mystery around it, which is really scary for people, and so we feel like people are as equipped as they can be going in, knowing that it’s going to be very hard for them to get a lawyer.”

As Texas Governor Greg Abbott began sending migrants that had crossed the Texas-Mexico border to New York City last summer, mutual aid groups and nonprofit organizations stepped up to help them access food, clothing, legal services, and other assistance.

The City administration also stepped up its efforts to help migrants by setting up a dedicated team as well as humanitarian relief centers to house them. Now, those services may need to meet a growing demand in the coming weeks.

To create more space in the City for migrants who might arrive, Mayor Eric Adams has said migrants who are already in the City and are willing to head to other neighboring communities like the Hudson Valley will be transported there.

Officials in the region haven’t embraced the idea. Two days ago, Rockland County even declared a state of emergency for 30 days and barred the City administration from sending migrants to its communities.

“Sending busloads of people to this county that does not have the infrastructure to care for them will only compound that issue tenfold while straining support systems that are already at a breaking point,” said Rockland County Executive Ed Day in a statement.

Adams has said only single adult men will be sent to the Hudson Valley for up to four months, as the City is trying to create more space for new migrants.

Andrew Heinrich, executive director and supervising attorney at Project Rosseau, offered representation on Monday to someone who only got to New York last week on a bus from Texas. On average, between 40 to 50 families visit Project Rousseau weekly to use their immigration screening services.

“I evaluated their case and we offered them representation that quickly,” he said. “So that’s the only way we’re going to be able to stay ahead of the curve here.”

 

Read the original story in Documented: As Title 42 Expires, New York Immigrant Advocates Keep Working

 

Catholic Migration Services is a member of the Pro-Se Plus Project and has been providing assistance to new immigrants arriving in New York City.

PRESS CLIP: Inquilinos de edificio en Queens ganan batalla y logran que casero arregle sus apartamentos

April 11, 2023
By Univision 41 Nueva York

Screen shot of news broadcast. Male anchor in a suit holding cue cards introduces a news segment. The text on the screen reads "Exigen Mejorar Condiciones"

Por Univision 41 Nueva York

Tras una batalla legal y decenas de denuncias, inquilinos de un edificio en Jackson Heights en Queens lograron una victoria en la corte, y el dueño de los apartamentos comenzó con reparaciones.

 

El mes pasado los inquilinos, en su mayoría de origen hispano, habían denunciado a Univision 41 el abandono en el que se encontraba este complejo ubicado en la 34th Road.

 

Moho, roedores, elevadores sin funcionar, ventanas con daños eran parte de la lista de problemas con los que convivían a diario.

 

Los afectados se unieron con la organización Catholic Migration Services para demandar al rentero en la corte civil de Queens.

 

El juez le dio un ultimátum a los dueños reparar los desperfectos y le dio como plazo hasta el 31 de mayo para terminar.

 

La remodelación ya inició, pero en caso de no terminarse, se le impondrá una multa al rentero.

 

“(Si no cumple) los inquilinos pueden demandar al dueño y entonces el juez va a decir que el dueño necesita pagar una multa”, indicó Bryan Fotino de la asociación Catholic Migration Services.

 

Fidel Portales tenía dos años con moho en el baño de su apartamento, además de problemas con una ventana.

 

Ambos problemas ya fueron solucionados.

 

“Si no era por ellos (la Catholic Migration Services) esto no va padelante”, agradeció Portales.

 

Las reparaciones siguen, por lo que los inquilinos esperan que se terminen en el tiempo estipulado.

 

See the original news segment from Univision 41 Nueva York (En Español): Inquilinos de edificio en Queens ganan batalla y logran que casero arregle sus apartamentos

PRESS CLIP – ‘We deserve a good quality of life’: Tenants of Jackson Heights apartment building demand safe living conditions

April 3, 2023
By Ethan Marshall

Photo by Ethan Marshall, Jackson Heights Post

Tenants of the Jackson Heights apartment building at 94-16 34th Road were joined by representatives from the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition (RTCNYC) and Catholic Migration Services on April 3 for a rally demanding safer living conditions and a statewide right to counsel.

The rally outside the Queens Housing Court in Jamaica marked the second held by the tenants in just over a month.

With the building’s tenants being predominantly low-and-middle-income people of Hispanic descent, they held the rally to bring attention to the poor living conditions that has put the health and safety of the building’s residents for the last 30 years. Additionally, they are uplifting their case to call for the passage of legislation-Statewide Right to Counsel (A1493-Joyner/S2721-May) for all New York state residents in any type of case that could result in eviction.

When the tenants and landlord met at their Feb. 27 court appearance, an agreement was ultimately reached to arrange access for maintenance to complete the repairs. However, the landlord’s workers frequently didn’t show up on certain access dates, according to the tenants. This has led to unresolved repairs, including insufficient heat and a malfunctioning elevator.

According to one of the tenants, Wanda Martinez, in her 30 years living at the building, she’s seen it change from owner to owner without any of the violations being addressed. She credits the Catholic Migration Services for helping the tenants organize and get the case to court.

“The first time [we were here] we established dates of access so that they can come in and start the repairs,” Martinez said. “They showed up to some, but didn’t show up to others, so we’re back here to negotiate. We’re going to give the [landlord] one more time to do what they have to do before we approach the judge and let them see that there is no good faith and that we may have to present a court case.”

Martinez said that the feedback she has received from the Catholic Migration Services attorney representing them, as well as the willingness of tenants to discuss their problems, has led her to determine April 3 as being an ultimatum date for the landlord.

According to Catholic Migration Services attorney Sarah Hainbach, there has been an agreement to a May 31 deadline of getting the building’s issues fixed. If the issues are not resolved by then, the tenants would sue the landlord.

“The landlord and the tenants agreed to a settlement today,” Hainbach said. “They agreed to all the repairs being completed by May 31, 2023. We’re hoping that’s what happens.”

Photo by Ethan Marshall, Jackson Heights Post

“Our thing is to get our repairs done, to have a good quality of life and not to be at a war with the owner,” Martinez said. “We understand that it’s his property, but we live in it and we deserve a good quality of life.”

In addition to repair issues like a lack of heat and hot water and the failure to address the building’s broken elevator in a timely manner, other factors leading to the tenants’ legal action include the failure to address mold and pests in the building. Additionally, the landlord attempted to pressure tenants to sign illegal leases without offering them new correct leases as well as harassing them by showing up at tenant association meetings and banging on their doors without warning.

A representative from the office of Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas was also on hand to read a statement she provided. In the statement, González-Rojas voiced her support for the tenants.

“No one should have to experience harassment at home,” Assemblymember González-Rojas said in her statement. “It is outrageous that the landlord has not provided the tenants with the renewal leases and that the repairs are not being completed since [the workers] are failing to show up on the dates arranged. Everyone deserves dignified housing and it’s clear that the tenants are not receiving that from the landlord. I urge the landlord to correct these issues immediately and stand and will continue to stand with the tenants of 94-16 34th Rd. until the repairs and needs are met.”

According to Catholic Migration Services Tenant Organizer Bryan Fotino, the landlord will be held accountable for doing the bare minimum in getting the repairs done before the deadline. If the work is not done by May 31, he said they plan to file a lawsuit against the landlord in contempt.

Photo by Ethan Marshall, Jackson Heights Post

“We are also out here in support of statewide right to counsel,” Fotino said. “We have been up in Albany working with state legislators to support this statewide right to counsel legislation. It would not only expand right to counsel throughout New York State, but it would also cover affirmative cases. Tenants who have repair issues will now have a lawyer who can support them as they’re filing their cases to sue their landlord. It’s been very important for the tenants to have the support of CMS legal team, helping them file out paperwork, helping them magnify their voices, helping answer questions about their rights. What this law would do is expand that for everyone.”