For Maria Najera 2020 was a very difficult year. The COVID-19 pandemic left a lot of pain among families in the Big Apple, who saw loved ones lose, and at her home in Brooklyn, the coronavirus not only attacked her head on, her two teenage children, and more seriously her husband, who got sick, but left them all out of work.
Stress, poverty, sadness, depression, uncertainty and an anguish that does not leave her alone for a single minute, too are in the memories of 2020.
And although with a year like this, the immigrant from Puebla confesses that deep down in her heart she would like her to leave soon 2020May 2021 begin and may the nightmare that his family and thousands of New Yorkers have lived through be left behind in oblivion, at the same time, ironically, He is terrified that the calendar continues to advance.
On December 31, the moratorium given by the Government to prevent landlords from evicting expires to tenants who have not been able to pay their rents. Technically, as of January 1, home and apartment owners in the Big Apple have the power to go to housing courts and initiate actions against tenants before the breach of its obligations. In the words of María, January 1 means the fear of being soon on the street with her children, her husband and their puppy Polo, who, if the family ended up in a shelter, would not be admitted.
“We are worried, very anxious because if they throw us out of here, we will end up without a home. And then where do we end up? That is the question I ask myself every day and I die of sadness knowing that I can end up in a shelter, and I don’t know if I will be able to go to one if I find myself in that situation ”, confesses the Mexican, who before From the pandemic, he made a living selling mango with salt and chili on 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue in manhattan.
The tenant, who has lived in her apartment for 15 years in Bushwick, property of a large corporation in the real estate business, she warns that she does not want to sound daring, but assures that the only option not to end up on the street, would be for the State to assume the payments of the back rents that she and thousands of tenants in the five boroughs they have with their landlords.
They suffer harassment from the landlord
As are the current finances at home, with her carpenter husband also unemployed, her children at school and the family living off food they claim in pantries and organizations like Make the road and churches, could not meet eventual payment arrangements. They owe for now 8 months of rent, with amounts of $ 1,200 each.
“We receive constant calls from the landlord asking when we are going to pay the rent, now they have begun to send letters and the truth is that unfortunately we will not be able to pay anything, because our savings have already run out. And with the moratorium ending in January, they will be able to evict us, so our only hope is for the State to help us ”, is the cry of the anguished mother.
And faced with the bleak outlook that would mean not adopting new measures to curb evictions starting in January, community organizations, leaders and activists are raising their voices to demand action from legislators in Albany and the Cuomo Administration.
The answer of the Cuomo Administration is that with the approval of the “Safe Harbor Law for Tenants”, that Albany signed last June, families who have been unable to pay their rents due to lost income from the pandemic are protected.
Criticism from activists is that despite the law preventing the courts from evicting tenants with financial hardships filed after March 7, do not prohibit landlords from filing eviction cases in court. It also makes for families that depend on informal jobs, who do not receive unemployment insurance or have documentation that support that the cause of not paying rent has been the loss of their jobs, prove it is impossible.
“That law does not protect us all, and one without understanding how the court system works here, would have to get a lawyer and there are not so many free to help usSo, without knowing about the laws, it’s like sending us to lose the cases and also the houses ”, says José Morales, a food delivery man, who does not have papers to show that the delay in his rents has been due to the pandemic, and who fears be thrown into the street.
On the difficulties of state law protections fully benefiting all affected tenants, including undocumented families, contrary to what activists and undocumented tenants claim, Jack Sterne, Spokesperson for the Cuomo Governorate, assured that it also shelters them.
“The Safe Harbor for Tenants Act protects anyone facing difficulties related to the eviction pandemic for nonpayment of rent, regardless of their immigration status,” said the Cuomo Administration official. “We encourage the courts to consider a wide range of situations and provide relief so that all New Yorkers who have been affected by this public health emergency can remain in their homes.”
The official explained that said law deliberately allows judges to consider many factors when determining whether someone is in financial difficulties related to the pandemic.
Among those aspects to consider are the income of the tenant or legal occupant before the period covered by the COVID-19 crisis, the tenant’s income, the tenant’s liquid assets and their eligibility for cash assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, Supplemental Security Income, New York State Disability Program, Home Energy Assistance Program or unemployment insurance or benefits under state or federal law.
The hope, in addition to the call for the state government to forgive the back rent, is in January, when it returns to sessions, the Legislature approves other pieces of law that are on the table. One of them is the Law for the Prevention of Displacement and Stability of Emergency Housing, a state initiative that would slow down all eviction processes until at least the end of the pandemic is decreed.
“New Yorkers are speeding toward a catastrophe with a homeless crisis as rent is overdue and evictions looming,” he said. Jawanza james williams, director of the organization VOCAL-NY, mentioning that to have more resources used for the most vulnerable families, it is urgent that the billionaire tax law be passed. “This reminds us that we need New York State to tax the rich so that we can take care of vulnerable communities, and anything other than that is unacceptable.”
Anu Joshi, Vice President of Policies of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), reminded Albany that the most unprotected families who are at risk of being left homeless, after the expiration of the moratorium on evictions, have also been the ones that have helped the most to move the city forward in the midst of the pandemic, without receiving incentives or financial aid, so they must already be taken into account. In addition to demanding action from the state government, he asked Washington to reach out for them.
“As temperatures drop and a second rise in COVID-19 hits New York, millions of immigrant families are at risk of losing their homes,” said the activist. “These are the same New Yorkers who have kept the rest of us fed, healthy and safe while we were excluded from all federal relief. Congress must immediately provide stimulus checks to these working New Yorkers and our state and city leaders must extend the moratorium on evictions. The collective health and well-being of all New Yorkers demands action now. “
100 thousand tenants the number of tenants who have not been able to pay their rents in NY is estimated.
They propose a total moratorium
State Senator Michael Gianaris, was on the side of the tenants and asked Albany to advance measures beyond temporary moratoriums, which can give low-income families a break, preventing them from increasing the number of homeless that some already estimate at 100,000 people.
“New York has not done enough to protect tenants from eviction during this difficult time. We must establish a total moratorium on evictions so that no one is expelled from their homes during the pandemic, “said the legislator.
On the part of the Assembly, they assure that they continue to fight to ensure that families affected by the pandemic do not lose their homes.
“The Speaker of the Assembly and the Democratic majority in the Assembly are working tirelessly to ensure that people can stay in their homes. According to the talks, the Assembly and the Senate are in the same place on how to handle evictions ”, mentioned Michael Whyland, communications director for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
The Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, joined the call for greater protections to be given to remove tenants who have not been able to pay their rents from the tightrope, and stressed that durable solutions are required and not warm water cloths.
“Before COVID-19 hit, we were already facing a housing crisis. We must stop evictions and keep New Yorkers in their homes and in their neighborhoods. This crisis is far from over, so tenants need long-term protection and immediate relief, ”said the politician.
Data to take into account
- 100 thousand tenants is estimated the number of tenants who have not been able to pay their rent in NY
- If a tenant receives an eviction letter after November 3, they will have to respond within 10 days after the date of notification.
- If received before November 3, you have until January 2, 2021 to reply
- If you have questions about how to act if your landlord wants to evict you for not paying your rent, you can call 311 and request the tenant helpline or contact a nearby community organization
- Approximately 15,000 tenants did not respond to requests until last month
- To answer the letters sent by the court, you can answer it by calling the courts of each county at the following numbers:
- Manhattan: 646-386-5505
- Bronx: 718-466-3000
- Brooklyn: 347-404-9201
- Queens: 718-262-7300
- Staten Island: 718-676-8455