Last month, the New York State Legislature passed a historic package of rent regulations called The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 that will strengthen and restore a series of important rent laws that were weakened over the course of 20 years. The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (“the Act”), signed into law days after lawmakers reached a deal, will preserve the affordability of about one million regulated apartments in New York City.
For Catholic Migration Services and its allies, this is a win that was years in the making. The Act addresses an affordable housing crisis caused in part by rollbacks of tenant protections, and by certain landlords who exploited loopholes and weak laws to put profit before tenants.
Catholic Migration Services, joined by coalition partners and tenants alike, advocated for years on behalf of New Yorkers to restore equity amid this statewide housing crisis. Carlos Ortiz, Tenant Organizer with the Tenant Advocacy Program picked up as lead organizer at Catholic Migration Services for this initiative shortly after the 2016 laws expired. It was during that time that he and other organizers at Catholic Migration Services began to get into campaign mode to mobilize tenants in need of housing reform. After a statewide coalition was formed joining advocates throughout New York State, they began to strategize and mobilize.
According to Ortiz, “Queens experienced one of the greatest mobilizations in the effort, and Catholic Migration Services was a big part of that. We consistently brought people from the borough, and dedicated tenant leaders who were part of the planning and strategy meetings sacrificed their time, and that of their families.”
New York tenants were kept abreast about these efforts through coordinated forums, community meetings, public platforms, rallies, and press conferences organized by partner organizations and coalition members. The rollback and new set of laws makes it much easier for tenants and their advocates, removing obstacles, and closing some loopholes that oftentimes threatened the homes and stability of New Yorkers. For Ortiz and other advocates, the historic legislation is a great step in the right direction but there is still work to be done, especially the elimination of the existing Major Capital Improvement (MCI) provisions that contain a loophole through which certain landlords can continue to increase rents dramatically and unfairly.
Catholic Migration Services is a unique legal service provider in the community. In addition to providing high quality legal assistance and Know Your Rights education to low-income individuals, Catholic Migration Services assists immigrants with immigration legal services, tenants in Queens with housing legal services, and low-wage workers with employment legal services. The staff includes attorneys and organizers. “We help solve problems from a legal position and in other good ways that are needed,” said Andrew Lehrer, Managing Attorney for the Tenant Advocacy Program. “There is value in having organizers and involving the client community. “It’s remarkable what tenants were able to achieve by coming together to advocate for these reforms,” said Lehrer.
Read the full press release from Assemblymember’s Office here: Assembly Passes Historic Affordable Housing Protections to Bring Stability to Tenants Across New York State
On Thursday, June 13, at the 5th Annual Sunset Reception in Brooklyn, Catholic Migration Services honored Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, recipient of the 2019 Public Service Award for outstanding pro bono work to help New York’s immigrants become U.S. citizens.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has offered invaluable support to the naturalization efforts of Catholic Migration Services, providing attorneys, paralegals, volunteers, and interns for naturalization workshops.
“With their support, Catholic Migration Services has been able to significantly increase the amount of Legal Permanent Residents we are able to serve. Last year the naturalization team assisted over 600 LPRs”, said Chloe Moore, Naturalization Coordinator. “Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has helped field over 700 hotline calls, getting in touch with hotline callers, completing a basic preliminary screening for naturalization, and then scheduling them for intake at the offices in Brooklyn and Queens.”
Thank you for supporting the 5th Annual Sunset Reception. It was a successful event that, like in past years have brought together the New York and Brooklyn law communities to help raise funds to enable Catholic Migration Services to carry out its mission of “welcoming the stranger in our midst.” A great opportunity to mix, mingle, and network with a community dedicated to social justice, we hope you will continue to support our work in underserved immigrant communities in Brooklyn and Queens.
[Photos: Catholic Foundation of Brooklyn and Queens]
Thank You to Our Diamond Sponsors!
Thank You to Our Gold Sponsors!
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Cullen and Dykman LLP
Mark & Suzanne Colodny
Thank You to Our Silver Sponsors!
Iannelli Construction Co., Inc.
Thank You to Our Bronze Sponsors!
Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP
Michael J. Holland, Esq. and Patricia Holland
Levy Ratner, P.C.
Moris Duffy Alonso & Faley
Rosato Firm P.C.
Earlier this month Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a lawsuit against Zara Realty Holding Corp., its principals, and affiliated entities for repeatedly violating rent stabilization laws and harassing tenants at their Queens apartment buildings. The defendants, who own and manage at least 2,500 rent-stabilized apartments in 38 buildings in and around Jamaica, Queens, have taken advantage of their tenants, who are largely immigrant middle- and low-income families, by charging them illegal fees and rents, and requiring that they sign illegal leases.
The complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that Zara Realty has spent years evading and circumventing rent stabilization laws in order to scam tenants out of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Zara Realty often illegally demands and charges new tenants illegal key money, room reservation fees, advanced rent, and excessive security deposits. Tenants who continue to reside in Zara Realty buildings are often illegally charged late fees and fees for services to which they are entitled to for free such as regular apartment maintenance.
For years, Catholic Migration Services has represented Queens tenants who have fallen victim to the harassment and unscrupulous tactics of Zara Realty. Providing legal, advocacy and organizing resources, Catholic Migration Services continues to combat predatory landlords and represents low-income New Yorkers living in Queens free of charge.
Read the full press release from the New York Attorney General’s Office: Attorney General James and Governor Cuomo Announce Lawsuit Against Queens Landlord for Violating Rent Stabilization Laws And Tenant Harassment
This week the New York Times Editorial Board endorsed several measures that Catholic Migration Services and Queens tenants have been advocating to Albany legislators. These proposals would eliminate some of the loopholes in state laws that currently allow landlords to impose significant rent increases that often make rent regulated apartments unaffordable. Catholic Migration Services has been working closely with tenants and coalition partners to advocate for the critical changes now supported by the Times. These changes include restricting how landlords can eliminate “preferential rents” and eliminating the incentive to evict tenants (“vacancy bonuses”).
Read the full story in the New York Times: Voters Can Keep Housing Affordable
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, District Attorney Richard Brown, and the Queens Immigration Task Force held their Annual Immigrant Know Your Rights Week Resource Fair and Legal Clinic on Thursday, June 28th at Queens Center Mall. Over 30 organizations and agencies participated in the resource fair and connected Queens immigrants with information for city services, nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups. A free legal clinic provided confidential consultations in areas of immigration, housing, employment, and domestic violence. Attorneys from Catholic Migration Services were available for legal consultations and an outreach team informed New Yorkers about the organization’s legal services.
Queens residents stop by the Immigrant Resource Fair for a chance to learn about new services, organizations, and agencies.
Queens immigrants chat with the outreach team of Catholic Migration Services to learn about the legal services and know your rights education available through the organization.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s Immigration Task Force is organizing a series of free informational “Know Your Rights” workshops and confidential legal clinics for immigrants from June 25 to June 29 and Catholic Migration Services has partnered with with the Borough President to bring these much needed services to the community. Taking part in a resource fair and one-on-one consultations, immigrants are encouraged to attend, seek resources and legal advice on immigration, housing and workers’ rights.
Read the full article via the Times Ledger: Katz announces inaugural Know Your Rights Week campaign