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The moratorium on evictions in New York City expired on Saturday night, opening the floodgates for eviction litigation.
A moratorium on evictions had been imposed in March of 2020 by the now-disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo, and had been extending it periodically throughout 2020 and 2021. Now, however, Governor Kathy Hochul has declined to extend the moratorium further, and the bottlenecked eviction litigation has piled up – to the tune of 291,000 pending cases that can begin on Tuesday, as landlords can finally begin to oust unwanted renters.
According to the Daily Mail, a number of city officials has expressed misgivings and concerns, citing the timing of the moratorium’s expiration alongside the rapid spread of the “Omicron” variant of Covid-19 that continues to play havoc on stability in the city:
“Tens of thousands of women and children of color in New York City are going to get evicted by their landlords, are going to wind up on the streets are going to wind up in our shelter system. And that just is not possibly right,” said Brad Lander, comptroller for New York City.
— Michael Hollingsworth (@mike4brooklyn) January 15, 2022
The transition has not been smooth, as protestors filled the streets alongside tenant’s rights organizations to demand the moratorium be extended.
“It’s unacceptable to start eviction proceedings against 250,000 people in the state of New York, when it’s winter. And there’s a pandemic still going on. It’s just unacceptable,” stated rotest organizer Sarah Lazuy.
“You cannot allow a moratorium to lapse in the middle of winter, during a COVID surge,” agreed Jumaane Williams, former Brooklyn council member and possible candidate for the governorship of New York.
Crown Heights tenants fly a banner today saying “evictions are violent” bc the eviction moratorium lapsed. Although today is an extraordinary intensification of the eviction machine (200k evictions pending) we realize that evictions always are violent! #StayAndFightEvicitons pic.twitter.com/3RBL7x79UD
— BrooklynEvictionDefense (@BrooklynDefense) January 15, 2022
Eviction is a legal process that can take some time, especially given the anticipated logjam in the courts. Hochul did state that in the meantime, there were relief programs that renters could apply for to avoid eviction, though the funds allocated to the program are reportedly quite depleted, especially given the notoriously high cost of rent in the city, particularly in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Both Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams have been vocal in pleading to federal authorities for financial support for their rental assistance programs. Adams has also been vocal in his support for tenants, and has released videos of himself explaining various tenant rights, such as the illegality of landlords locking residents out of their homes without a valid eviction order (the actual act of which is supervised by police).
New York has a very high percentage of renters (compared to property owners) in the city, making residents very vulnerable to instability in the rental situation. How the city will fare as an estimated 81,530 eviction filings finally begin the slog through an overwhelmed court system remains to be seen.
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