City Council Voted: Albany Must Defend and Expand Right to Counsel!

On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, tenants, organizers, and our allies rallied in City Hall Park alongside Council Members Abreu and Sanchez to urge City Council to pass two important resolutions in support of our Statewide Right to Counsel and DEFEND Right to Counsel legislation. Following our rally and press conference, the resolutions passed! 

The resolutions call on the state to address the crisis in NYC housing court by upholding and expanding Right to Counsel (RTC). Resolution 499, introduced by Council Member Abreu, supports the DEFEND Right to Counsel legislation, which mandates that tenants have the time they need to secure RTC. Resolution 345, introduced by Council Member Sanchez, supports Statewide Right to Counsel legislation, which guarantees RTC for all tenants across New York State and creates rules for the courts to uphold and implement RTC. 

The passage of these resolutions sends a clear message to our legislators in Albany: New York City tenants can’t wait any longer for them to act! NYC Council recognizes that there is a serious crisis in NYC housing courts and that mandating adjournments to provide tenants with the time they need to exercise their RTC (which our pieces of legislation would require the courts to do) is an essential part of the solution. These resolutions are also a testament to the effectiveness of RTC and the need to strengthen and uphold it: We know RTC works. With RTC, every year, more than 84% of tenants who have an attorney are able to remain in their homes. 

Every day, the courts are denying thousands of New Yorkers RTC. Since the eviction moratorium expired in January 2022, more than 41,000 households have faced eviction alone, many of whom are entitled to RTC. Rather than granting tenants the time they need to secure representation, the courts are prioritizing clearing their dockets over honoring tenants’ rights.

“It is shameful that in a country as powerful as ours that people are being thrown out in the streets, women and children! We pay our taxes and we need more support!” said Valentin Lopez, a tenant leader with Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) in the Bronx.

“We can't stop the fight!” said Wanda Martinez, a tenant leader with Catholic Migration Services in Queens. “We have to push it all the way to Albany to make sure we have the Right to Counsel and an eviction free New York.”

Other members of City Council also joined the rally to show their support and urge the state to uphold and expand this powerful right: 

“There is a crisis of homelessness in New York City…We know what works to prevent homelessness, to keep people in their homes. The way that we do that is by guaranteeing a Right to Counsel for every single tenant facing eviction.” said Council Member Lincoln Restler. 

“We know that housing is the most urgent crisis in the city; it connects to every other crisis around us,” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan. “We have fought to get Right to Counsel because we know that to keep people in their homes tenants need access to a lawyer, otherwise it’s not a fair fight.” 

The passage of these resolutions is a cause to celebrate! We must continue to urge our state officials to act:

  • Chief Judge Wilson must issue an administrative order to pause cases until eligible tenants have RTC. 
  • The State Legislature must pass Statewide Right to Counsel (A1493 / S2721) and our DEFEND RTC legislation (A4993 / S3254) that respectively, strengthens and expands RTC across the state and mandate that tenants have the time they need to get RTC.


CALL CHIEF JUDGE WILSON TODAY to demand that he issue an administrative order pausing cases until eligible tenants have Right to Counsel. As Chief Judge of New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, Judge Wilson has the power to address this crisis today. We can't allow one more tenant to be denied their rights in housing court. Judge Wilson must act NOW!

JOIN US on Tuesday, December 12th, for an all day virtual phonebank in support of our Statewide Right to Counsel bill. Use this simple tool to make phone calls to your state legislators before and after our phone zap day (para espanol).

SIGN UP FOR COURT WATCH to talk to tenants in housing court and let them know they have rights, that they can demand an adjournment, and share how they can get involved in the work to DEFEND Right to Counsel and stop evictions. 

Reach out to Brianna with the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition for more information or questions at ‪(646) 727-0597‬ or email us at [email protected]