Articles from October 2020



RIGHT TO COUNSEL R2C – THE TIME IS NOW!

Most people know that everyone who is charged with a criminal offense is entitled to representation by legal counsel – regardless of their ability to pay. But what about civil court, especially Landlord-Tenant matters? How is it that, in something as fundamentally important as a place to live, tenants are not guaranteed that same Right to Counsel, as a right, regardless of ability to pay? Anyone who’s ever witnessed the operation of local Landlord/Tenant Courts knows that virtually every landlord is represented by an attorney while hardly any tenant is so represented.  This results in a huge, and at times insurmountable, imbalance of power.

There is a movement throughout the country that is attempting to remedy this manifestly unfair dynamic – The Right to Counsel Campaign. Many jurisdictions – cities, counties and states are
passing ordinances guaranteeing income-eligible tenants the right to be represented by counsel throughout the eviction process. This would begin to level the playing field in local Landlord-Tenant Courts.

Here in Westchester, Mt. Vernon United Tenants (MVUT), Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) and a number of other not-for profit organizations that are working to fight evictions and prevent homelessness have created the Westchester County Right to Counsel Coalition (R2C) .

We’re enclosing a few pieces from the R2C Coalition:

  • “Stop evictions – Prevent Homelessness, sup port Right to Counsel” – Key points to consider (see PDF)
  •  Suggested letter to Westchester County Board of Leqislators (W-BOL) (see PDF)
  • List of county Legislators* with contact information (see PDF)

*Note: On the list of County Legislators, you’ll notice that District 13 is blank – that is Mt. Vernon, and it is empty as our long-time county Legislator Lyndon williams recently resigned to become a Mt. vernon City Court Judge. Lyndon’s seat will most likely be taken by Tyrae Woodsan, a legislative aide for Congressman Etiot Engel. tt appears that Tyrae will be ruryning unopposed. However, we do not at this time have any contact information on him. That will have to wait until after Election buy on November 3’o. We’ll provide that information to our members and friends as it becomes available.

For those of you who are not Mt. Vernon residents, please use the suggested letter and mail it to your respective county Legislators today. For Mt. Vernonites, you’ll have to wait till sometime in November. However, EVERYONE SHOULD WRITE THE LETTER!

Additionally, we’ll be scheduling an action in White Plains late in October when we’ll want as many people to come as possible.  We’ll have specific information in an upcoming mailing and you can call the office as well.  If you belong to a church or other organization that you believe would support the goal of “Right to Counsel’,, have them contact us and become part of the coalition!  We’d encourage them to come to the action in White Plains as well.

TENANTS UNITED CAN WIN!!!
Support Tenant Rights!
Support MVUT!!

Download Right To Counsel Mailing PDF

Early October 2020 News and Updates

MVUT normally holds its ANNUAL MEETING on the first Tuesday of October.  However, because of the Pandemic, we cannot successfully “Social Distance” in our office for the number of people required. Accordingly, we will continue to provide our program delivery until such time when we can successfully conduct our ANNUAL MEETING. The current Board of Directors will remain in their seats until that time.

Census 2020

Great News! A federal judge in California has overturned the Trump administration’s shortening of the time to complete the Census questionnaire from September 30, 2020 to its original date of October 31, 2020. The extra month provides us the opportunity to significantly raise the percentage of Mt. Vernon residents to complete the questionnaires. THIS lS VITALLY IMPORTANT! Mt. Vernon stands to lose millions of dollars over the next decade if we do not dramatically increase the percentage of Mt, Vernon residents. We can all play a role in making this happen. As of September 30, only 56.7% of Mt. Vernon residents have successfully completed the Census. We are tied for last among all of the Westchester-municipalities in our response rate! That is unacceptable and it will irreparably harm Mt. Vernon for the next decade. MVUT is working with various others to increase our census numbers.

What can you do?

1) lf you or anyone you know has not filled out the Census questionnaire, come to the MVUT office and we’ll quickly help you do so.

2) lf there are many people in your building who have not completed the Census, MVUT will come to your building for a meeting in your lobby to help people complete the questionnaire.

3) As in #2, maybe you’d like to set up a meeting in your church where we’d likewise set up a table to help complete the questionnaire.

4) lf you know of any community events where a crowd is expected, let us know and we’ll try to get volunteers there to help with the census.

Remember, this is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to secure major federal dollars for Mt. Vernon. Let’s make the most of it.

Election Day, November 3, 2020

This is probably the most important election in all of our lifetimes. ln the last mailing we provided  a list of times and places for “early voting” from Saturday, October 24, through Sunday, November 1.  If you or someone you know is not registered to vote and wants to register, they must do so by Friday, October 9.  We have voter registration forms in our office. If you have questions about the voting process, you should call the Westchester Board of Elections at:  (914) 995-5700 or check out their website at: https://citizenparticipation.westchestergov.com/

Eviction Moratorium 

On Monday, September 28 Governor Cuomo extended the eviction moratorium under the State Tenant Safe Harbor Act to Janua ry 1,2021. While this is perhaps seen as merely “kicking the can down the road,” it does provide tenants with time to work out plans for rent repayment, and more importantly gives the federal government more  opportunity to provide economic relief to cities and states, which could be utilized to protect tenants who are in serious arrears.

Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of New York State (NPC/NYS)  

The NPC/NYS for a long time has been MVUT’s largest funding source. The NpC/NyS normally holds their Annual Meeting and Conference in October, However this year as a result of the pandemic,  there will be no Conference. In its place the NpC/NyS has decided to host a series of Webinars on various housing issues

We’re enclosing a list and descriptions of the five (5) Webinars. We’ll be participating in these Webinars from our office. If you’d like to sit in at our office for any of these Webinars from our office, call the office and we’ll try to facilitate that.

SUPPORT TENANTS’ RIGHTS!

SUPPORT AFFORDABLE  HOUSING ! !

Support MVUT!!!

Download MVUT Early Oct 2020 News and Updates

Voting Times and Places

Census Remarks and Facts

List of NPC/NYS Webinars

 

Early September 2020 – News and Updates

Usually the end of the summer is a relatively quiet time for us at this office – not so this year. We’re helping organize and/or filing complaints for four (4) separate buildings in Mt.Vernon currently:

  • 47 Oak Street
  • 60 West First Street
  • 55 Pennsylvania Ave
  • 229 South 7th Ave. (Grace House)

Plus we’re heavily involved in a number of key public policy issues…

Census 2020: The time to respond has been cut short by one month, from October 31, 2020, to September 30,2o2o MVUT has been working with people in Mt Vernon and westchester to increase Mt. Vernon’s count. lt’s essential that we get more Mt Vernon residents counted. We need everyone to be counted. We lose $2,750.00 every year for every person not counted – for ten (10) yearsl

We’re enclosing a two-sided sheet prepared by Tamara Stewart, “2020 Census Remarks/Census Math,” which describes the issue We need our members to let us know if they want us to set up a table in their building to get people counted. We have computer “tablets” in our office to ask the nine (9) questions, and we periodically set up a table in front of our office to slgn people up’ We especially need volunteers for the balance of September to help us ‘count” people Call the office (914) 699- 1114 if you can help.

PLEASE!  THERE S NOTHING TO FEAR!  All information is confidential. Even if someone is undocumented – it does not matter – no information of any kind will be shared with ANY government or law enforcement agency.

Riqht to Counsel: We’re still playing a key role in the campaign to get Westchester County to adopt a “Right to Counsel Law” which would provide free attorneys to income-eligible tenants in Landlord-Tenant court proceedings. For Mt Vernon tenants, we do not have a County Legislator right now as Lyndon Williams left to become a City Judge.  There will be a new County Legislator in that seat as of election day, and we’ll let everyone know who that is and contact info to call and write him/her to regarding support for ‘Right to Counsel”.  If you are not a Mt.Vernon resident, you can call the  Westchester Board of Legislators (W-BOL) at (914) 995-2BOO and find out who your county Legislator is and his/her contact information.

Pandemic: Things have been crazy as a result of the pandemic and many people have lost some or all of their income. Low incorne tenants have been particularly hard-hit.  We’re enclosing two (2) recent newspaper articles on this issue back-to-back.  An August 30, 2020 New York Times Opinion “Don’t Let Evictions Spread the Virus” by noted author Matthew Desmond, and an August 27, 2020 news article in the Journal News -“38% of Households Can’t Make Ends Meet” according to a new standard – ALICE (Asset-Limited, lncome-Constrained, Employed).  Times are tough indeed!

Furniture Sharehouse: Furniture Sharehouse has been physically closed during the pandemic and we have been unable to bring clients up to the Westchester County Airport to get free furniture, However, Furniture Sharehouse has recently begun allowing people to get furniture “virtually”. There have been some changes and additions to the application process but we can help you through that. The same fees still apply – $25 referral fee, and your choice of delivery – full-delivery i.e. into your home $150.00, curb-side delivery $75.00 or no charge if you can pick up the furniture yourself.  You must go through a member agency, like MVUT to participate.

Voting: This is an extremely important election coming up on November 3,2020.   However, Westchester residents may vote early, from Saturday, October 24 -Sunday November 1. We’re enclosing a list of the Dates, times and places where you may vote early. Be sure to let your friends, family and neighbors know of those early voting opportunities.

On the reverse side of the Voting notice, we’ve enclosed a notice about a “Utility Scare”. BEWARE!! This is especially important to senior citizens. Don’t give any information to unsolicited callers. Hang up and/or call the numbers listed on the Notice.

$ for MVUT: Please help us help the community. Support us financially so we can help more people!

Early Sept 2020 News and Update

2020 Census Remarks/Census Math

Sept 2020 News Clips

Voting Places and Times