Mayor’s Office Expands Free Legal Help to Fight Evictions

Council Members Vanessa Gibson and Mark Levine and activists celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Right to Counsel bill in September 2018. The program will now be expanding to include more ZIP codes. Image Credit: Official NYC Council Photo by William Alatriste

The expansion provides free legal assistance for tenants in five additional ZIP codes. On December 13, 2019, the Mayor’s Office announced an expansion of the Right to Counsel program that provides free legal assistance to New Yorkers fighting eviction. The Right to Counsel program, implemented by a ZIP code by ZIP code approach, will be expanded to five more ZIP codes across the City.

The new ZIP codes included in the program are:

  • 10453 – Morris Heights, Bronx
  • 11207 – East New York, Brooklyn
  • 10029 – East Harlem, Manhattan
  • 10034 – Inwood, Manhattan
  • 11691 – Far Rockaway, Queens

The City plans to continue the expansion of the Right to Counsel program through 2022. To see other included zip codes and eligibility requirements, click here. For more information about the program, click here.

Since the City began investing in legal assistance for tenants in 2014, the City has invested $128 million, allowing over 350,000 New Yorkers to receive free legal assistance for evictions and other housing-related matters. Since the start of the program in 2017, one in three New Yorkers now have the right to free legal representation in court to fight eviction; prior to the program, only one in a hundred New Yorkers had access. In the last fiscal year, legal organizations that received funding from the City assisted over 105,000 New Yorkers in over 41,000 households. Between 2013 to 2018, the number of evictions have dropped by 30 percent.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “No person should lose their home because they cannot afford a lawyer, and New York City is the first city in the country to make this a reality. Over 350,000 New Yorkers have received free legal assistance so far, setting us on the course to be the fairest, big city in America.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson, a lead sponsor on the bill that created the Right to Counsel program, stated, “Right to Counsel has been a truly transformative resource for families and individuals facing eviction in New York City. By providing eligible tenants free legal representation in housing court, we are drastically changing the landscape of evictions across the city with a measure that works. With evictions down 30%, we look forward to the new zip codes that are being added as we continue to expand this life changing Initiative. I am extremely proud of our investment in Right to Counsel, which has leveled the playing field for tenants and given families a powerful tool in Housing Court.”

Council Member Mark Levine, another lead sponsor of the bill, stated, “New York City’s first-in-the nation right to counsel law has been a game-changer for tenants. In every zip code where the program has been phased in so far we’ve seen a reduction in the number of evictions–meaning thousands of families have been able to remain in their homes and avoid homelessness.  I am thrilled the City is now rolling out the program in additional zip codes, ensuring that ever more tenants can achieve fairness in housing court.  I look forward to continuing to work with the administration to ensure that truly every vulnerable tenant benefits from this program.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)

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