Faith Leaders Call for the Right to Counsel in NYC

December 8, 2016


Honorable Bill de Blasio

Mayor of City of New York

City Hall

New York, NY 10007


Honorable Melissa Mark-Viverito

Speaker of the City Council

City Hall

New York, NY 10007


Dear Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito:


As Faith Leaders from many faith traditions from throughout New York City, we write to you to express our support for your efforts to address our city’s crisis of homelessness and our critical shortage of affordable housing and to urge you to exercise your leadership in the 2016 legislative session in making New York City the first city in the country to guarantee the right to legal counsel in housing court for tenants up to 200% of the poverty line. With our homeless population at an all-time high, and the displacement pressures on New York’s households, caused by rampant real estate development, increasing daily, it is unacceptable that those who have helped make our city the great and diverse place that we love are forced out of their homes solely because they are unable to defend themselves in housing court.


At the very heart of each of our faith traditions is the call to stand with those most in need. It is for this reason that faith leaders have endorsed the efforts to help prevent unwarranted rent increases, provide subsidies for homeless families departing the shelters, produce supportive housing for most vulnerable, and to provide over $50 million for legal assistance in housing court which has resulted in a nearly 25% reduction in evictions. But despite these efforts, the number of homeless New Yorkers has continued to rise. As the City balances the need to produce more housing against the need to protect its residents from displacement, we believe that the commitment of the Mayor’s office and the City Council to ensure that its neighborhoods are preserved and existing residents are fully protected from preventable and illegal evictions is crucial to the life and health of the city we all love.


As you know, many New Yorkers have expressed serious concern that the efforts to build and preserve 200,000 units of housing, and the rezoning and development that the plan calls for, will result in the displacement of many current New York City residents. A strong commitment from the Mayor and City Council to enact Intro 214-A THIS YEAR along with other anti-displacement initiatives will send a powerful message to members of our congregations and the general public that this development will be balanced with a comprehensive and historic commitment to ensure that this new housing will not be developed at the expense of New York’s low income and working class residents - and will help to affirm the public’s faith that New York City is truly committed to help all New Yorkers to live full and decent lives. It’s time to make history! We look to both of you for your continued strong leadership on this issue.


In Faith,

Will you sign?