April 2011 Volunteer Feature: Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Partners With the Legal Aid Society on Innovative New York City Public Housing Pro Bono Project
Each year thousands of low-income New Yorkers are in danger of losing their New York City Housing Authority ("NYCHA") apartments, the most important and largest source of affordable housing in New York City. If these homes are lost, the tenants, many of whom are elderly or have small children, are at risk of becoming homeless. Only a small number of NYCHA tenants are represented by counsel, increasing the likelihood that they will lose irreplaceable housing. Seeking to increase access to justice for this vulnerable population through expanding our limited resources, The Legal Aid Society has partnered with Weil to create a comprehensive administrative and judicial representation model.
Since February, Weil's attorneys, have represented seven tenants, several of whom are disabled, and who require counsel for NYCHA administrative termination of tenancy proceedings. The grounds for termination are varied and include erroneous allegations by NYCHA of unauthorized occupancy, chronic rent delinquency, failure to supply all necessary documents for lease renewal, and non-desirable acts by a tenant or in most cases by the tenant's child or grandchild. If a tenant loses the administrative hearing, the remedy is the commencement of an Article 78 proceeding in State Supreme Court. Weil has also committed to filing Article 78 proceedings on behalf of public housing tenants and tenants who receive a housing subsidy, which enables them to meet their monthly rent obligation, where decisions to terminate a tenancy or subsidy have been made in violation of NYCHA's procedures or the law. Recognizing the need to address systemically low-income New Yorkers' access to subsidized housing, Weil also quickly joined the Society as co-counsel to prevent New York City's imminent termination of Advantage rent subsidies to 15,0000 recipients. (Please refer to the news article for a more detailed description)
Partners, Ronit Berkovich, Bruce Colbath, and Debra Dandeneau lead the Weil public housing pro bono team. Judith Goldiner, Civil Law Reform Supervising Attorney, and staff attorney Lucy Newman oversee the project at The Legal Aid Society