What is the “Right to Counsel” and why do we support it?
Members of the Manhattan Young Democrats’ Affordable Living Taskforce urge you to support Intro 214 – The Right to Counsel. This proposed New York City Council bill would ensure low-income New York tenants, who are subject to eviction, ejectment, or foreclosure proceedings, receive legal representation while in Housing Court. Separate from criminal cases, the civil cases in Housing Court, such as those brought upon a tenant by a landlord, are resolved with or without attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant. According to the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, 90% of landlords have attorneys in Housing Court, while 70% of tenants do not. This positions landlords to take advantage of tenants in an attempt to force them out of their apartments through predatory practices, including initiating construction that creates unsafe living habits and refusing to fix a loss of heat or hot water in the building.
The bill currently has support from 42 of 51 New York City Council members. However, although Right To Counsel is supported by a majority of city council members, the bill has yet to be brought to a vote by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would ultimately sign 214-A, has not publicly endorsed or opposed the bill. In his efforts to address homelessness – the Affordable Living Task Force calls upon Mayor de Blasio to consider the root causes of the issue: lack of affordable housing, evictions and hazardous housing conditions remain leading reasons for the homelessness crisis in New York City.
In line with the Affordable Living Task Force’s mission, to make New York City affordable, accessible, and enjoyable for all people, we believe that low-income New York City tenants should have the right to representation in Housing Court. As reflected in our name, living is more than just housing. We believe tenants should have legal representation when their rights to safe and affordable living conditions are at risk.
For further information on how to take action, please see our guide, copied below.
Here’s how you can take action for New Yorkers facing eviction:
- Learn about the Right to Counsel.
- Intro 214 ensures low-income New York tenants, who are subject to eviction, ejectment or foreclosure proceedings, receive publicly provided legal representation while in Housing Court.
- 70% of tenants do not have representation in Housing Court while 90% of landlords do.
- The law would apply to tenants with an income of 200% or below the federal poverty line, or nearly 130,000 New Yorkers.
- A majority of New York City Council Members have signed to support Intro-214, but the bill has yet to come to a vote.
- For more information, click here or read our explainer above.
- Sign the petition urging Mayor de Blasio to publicly support, pass and fund the Right to Counsel.
- Use the call guide below to call City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mayor de Blasio and other City Council Members to urge support and pressure a vote to be called for Intro 214.
Right to Counsel Call Guide
Calling representatives only takes a minute or two out of your day, and it could be the impetus for representatives to support, pass, sign, fund or call to vote laws that have the potential to change thousands of lives. To take action in support of the Right to Counsel, call the following people with the provided script.
Who To Call
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: 212-788-7210
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: 844-655-7468
(According to the Mayor’s office, calls are not recorded. Send postal mail or an email for your voice to be heard using the guide under the call script.)
Council Members who have not signed in support of Intro 214:
- Joe Borreli: 212-788-7159
- Chaim M. Deutsch: 212-788-7360
- David G. Greenfield: 718-853-2704
- Melissa Mark-Viverito (Speaker): 212-788-7210
- Eric Ulrich: 212-788-7069
- James Vacca: 212-788-7375
- Paul Vallone: 212-788-7250
Hello, [name of who you’re calling]. My name is [your name], and I am a supporter of Intro-214 — the Right to Counsel. I am calling to urge you to support Intro 214-A which provides the right to counsel in eviction proceedings. In 2013, about 30,000 families were evicted from their homes and two-thirds of those families earned less than $25,000 per year. Recently, the number of New Yorkers living in a homeless shelter reached a record high of over 60,000 people with over a third of those being children. As a fellow New Yorker, I’m calling on you to combat inequality and homelessness by calling to a vote and passing Intro 214-A. I encourage you to help affirm the public’s faith that New York City is truly committed to serve all New Yorkers equitably. Thank you for your time and your support.
Email or Send A Letter To Mayor Bill de Blasio
According to the Mayor’s office, calls are not recorded. You must send postal mail or an email in order for your message to be recorded. Copy the following message and click here to paste in a web form that emails the Mayor’s office, or send postal mail to the below address.
Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York, NY 10007
Mayor de Blasio,
I am writing in support of Intro 214-A, which provides the right to counsel to low-income New Yorkers in eviction proceedings. In 2013, about 30,000 families were evicted from their homes and two-thirds of those families earned less than $25,000 per year. Recently, the number of New Yorkers living in homeless shelters reached a record high of over 60,000 people, with over one third being children. As a fellow New Yorker, I’m calling on you to combat inequality and homelessness by publicly supporting 214-A and calling for a vote to pass the bill. You have called New York City a progressive model for the nation in the face of President Trump’s disastrous agenda, and I encourage you to affirm the public’s faith that New York City is truly committed to following through with that inclusive and equitable expectation.