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The Right to Counsel in New York City

  • Theresa Lang Student Center 55 West 13th Street, 2nd Floor New York, NY, 10011 United States (map)

The Right to Counsel in New York City: A Panel Discussion about Victory, Opportunities and Challenges for Tenant Organizing in NYC and Beyond

In a single year, landlords try to evict close to a million people in New York City through the housing court system. Historically, the vast majority of tenants did not have legal representation in housing court. The opposite has been true for landlords who are almost always represented by an attorney. Data shows that at least half of the tenants who are evicted each year could remain in their homes if they had legal representation.

The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition formed to change this power dynamic, which leads not only to evictions, but also to displacement, gentrification and the loss of affordable housing. In 2014, the Right to Counsel Bill (Intro 214) was introduced in New York City Council in order to establish a city-funded right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction proceedings. Three years later, the RTCNYC Coalition won an amazing victory making NYC the first City in the nation to establish a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction. Over the next 5 years, this new right will be phased in and many questions remain about how the new right will be implemented.

This panel will focus on the community and tenant driven organizing campaign to win the Right to Counsel in New York City and also examine how this model is scalable to other cities across the country. This panel will explore impacts of policy change that is rooted in community organizing and also look at how those that are affected by the policy can help shape the implementation. The panel will also explore how NYC can be a national model for other cities.

Panelists Include:

  • Susanna Blankley, Right to Counsel Coalition Coordinator (Moderator)

  • Lorena Lopez, Tenant Organizer at Catholic Migration Services

  • Randy Dillard, NYC Tenant, Member of Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA)

  • Marika Dias, Housing Attorney, Director of Tenant Rights Coalition, Legal Services NYC

  • Maria Lopez-Nunez, Community Organizer, Ironbound Community Corporation, Newark, NJ

Co-sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, The Right to Counsel Coalition and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center