Late-April 2021 “News & Update”

THE PANDEMIC

The pandemic has thrown practically everything in life into some form of disarray with people losing jobs and income, stores not open, schools closing, people fearful of engaging with others, standard services not available, etc. lt’s been a long and tough year indeed!  We have likewise been affected here at Mt. Vernon United Tenants (MVUT)! That’s one of the reasons that you have not received any mailings from us in quite some time. We assure you however, we’re still here and working hard to protect tenants.

While we were “officially closed” for a relatively short period of time, we were working virtually from home during this time, we’ve been back in the office full-time for months now and are as busy as ever. (Please try to call for an appointment – we are really trying to follow CDC recommendations and we can no longer have 3 and 4 people waiting to be seen; making an appointment is better use of your time, too.)

You have probably heard that there has been a “moratorium” on evictions. That has dramatically reduced some of our work in individual case management. However, we’re continuously assisting tenants who are in rent arrears in anticipation of the moratorium being ultimately lifted. While a June date was listed for such a lifting of the moratorium, there are strong indications that the moratorium will be extended yet again. We’ll keep you posted. Despite the moratorium, landlords are still trying to evict tenants.

We’re enclosing a two {2)-sided flyer from 4/23/21 Shelterforce Magazine – “The Answer: Does the CDC Extension of the Eviction Moratorium Mean No One ls Being Evicted Now?

We’re anticipating a virtual tsunami of eviction cases in court once the moratorium is eventually lifted. We’re working with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) to try to work with the Mt. Vernon Court system to carefully schedule cases in the local court so as not to overwhelm tenants’ ability to defend thousands and access resources to help pay back rent. Accordingly, we are enclosing an article in the April 22,2021 Journal News – “EXPRESS” which describes some of the generous benefits that will be available for tenants facing eviction if they have had some level of disruption due to Covid. lf you, or someone you know falls into this category, please call the MVUT office to begin preparation for assistance.

Despite the moratorium, some cases (Holdovers, non-payment not involving Covid defense) have been proceeding in the local court. MVUT normally averages approximately double figures in eviction prevention on a monthly basis. With the moratorium and the great reducation in landlord/tenant cases in the local courts there was a sharp drop-off in such eviction prevention. Some of our recent numbers are:

September, 2020 – 4 evictions prevented
October,2020 – 3 evictions prevented
November, 2020 2 evictions prevented
December, 2020 – 1 evictions prevented

ZOOM CALLS/WEBINARS

MVUT has always been active in a range of policy issues with all four (4) levels of government:

– Municipal
– County
– State
– Federal

This has often been via participation in conferences and/or meetings on a city wide, county wide, region-wide and /or state-wide basis. The pandemic has changed all this. For the last year-plus, there have been no multi-person gatherings. What has taken place instead are Zoom calls and Webinars. There has been a literal mushrooming of those on various issues of concern to us, e.g. Housing, Public Assistance, Discrimination & Bias, Fair Housing’ Economics, Race and Racism, Leadership Development, etc.  We have spent a lot of time and energy participating in these!  In the upcoming few weeks, we are already scheduled to be on more than one (1) Zoom call/Webinar per day!   This should continue like this until the pandemic is fully over.

RIGHT TO COUNSEL

MVUT continues to play a role in a county-wide effort to get Westchester to adopt a “Right to Counsel” Law, where income-eligible tenants facing court proceedings in Landlord/Tenant Court would be entitled to an attorney free of charge to represent them.  We have likewise been involved in numerous zoom calls on this issue.  All research confirms that this is a winning tactic and will dramatically reduce evictions and will ultimately save county taxpayers loans of dollars on emergency shelter costs.  There are currently nine (9) jurisdictions (eight (8) cities and (1) state, Washington, just passed last week) that have adopted such ordinances (New York City being the first) and there are a number of other states that are currently considering statewide laws.  Dennis actually questioned the New York State Assembly Housing Chair, Steven Cymbrowitz, regarding this issue on a Zoom call on April 22 and the Assemblyman basically dodged the question, just referring to the NYC Law and referencing that the State Law was being reviewed by the Codes Committee.

People reading this should call your county legislator and tell him or her to support the adoption of a “Right to Counsel” Law in Westchester.  You can call the main number for the County Board of Legislators at (914) 995-2800.  If you are in Mt. Vernon, you legislator is Tyrae Woodson-Samuels.  If you live elsewhere, call the number above, tell them your address, and they’ll connect you to your respective County Legislator.  This would be a great opportunity to establish a relationship with him/her!

SPANISH-SPEAKING SERVICES

For far too long, MVUT has gone without a Spanish-speaking staff person.  Through a new grant with the City of Mt. Vernon Department of Planning and Community Development (MV-PCD) we’ve been able to hire one!   This is great news as we have a growing Spanish-speaking population in Mt. Vernon and they have been historically underserved.  We hope to begin addressing this on an individual and building-wide basis.  Our new staff person is a wonderful young man, Andrew Aguilar.  He’s just learning the ropes of tenant organizing and getting to know the operation of MVUT.  He met recently with Dennis and Deputy Commissioner of the Mt. Vernon Department of Planning and Community Development (MV-PCD) Marlon Molina, and newly-hired Planning Department Staff Assistant to this project, Eric Crump.  Good luck, Andrew!

TENANTS BILL OF RIGHTS

Part of our collaboration with the MV-PCD will be a campaign to educate tenants about their rights.  The MV-PCD has produced an abbreviated flyer/poster on this which we copied on the reverse side of The Journal News EXPRESS article.

See also New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Residential Tenants’ Rights Guide.

NEED FOR DOLLARS

Just as we have not written to our members/friends for some time, we likewise have not asked recently for your financial help.  We’d like to take this opportunity to do so now.  You can see we’re working hard for you and all other tenants, so please give generously now!   Many of you are donating regularly – Thank you!  Thank you!!  Those of you who haven’t, please pitch in now.  Thanking you in advance!

PLEASE HELP US!  DONATE TODAY!! SUPPORT MVUT!

We rely on your support to keep up our work — especially now.

_____$25 ______$50 _____$75 _____$100 _____$200 ____ $500

Name: ________________________________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________________________________

Telephone:____________________________________________________________________

Email:________________________________________________________________________

Send to:: Mt. Vernon United Tenants, P.O.Box 2017, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551
(914) 699-1114

Download MVUT Late April 2021 News and Update (PDF)

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