Posts belonging to Category Report to Members



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)

Mid-August 2020 – “News and Update”

Census 2020

Mt. Vernon has had the lowest percentage of residents in Westchester successfully completing the Census 2020 form. THIS lS TERRIBLE!  We must do everything in our power to get everyone to complete the Census form. Everyone should be not only completing their own forms, but just as importantly, helping to get others (friends, relatives, neighbors and others) to complete the Census.  People can come to the MVUT office, where we have Census tablets and can assist them in completing it. lt only takes ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes.

Mt. Vernon stands to lose tens of millions of dollars over the next ten (10) years if we do not do better at getting everyone to complete the Census count.  Make this a priority! Tell everyone — Do the Census.

To further do MVUT’S part in trying to increase our percentage of people completing the Census, we’ll be setting up a table in front of ouroffice at 2 Gramatan Avenueto have people who are passing by fill out the Census tablet right there. We need volunteers to help sit at the table and to assist people in answeringthe questions. We’ll train anyone who can help. lt’s quite easy, but we need volunteers to help!   Call the office at (914) 699-1114 Ext. 303 if you’d like to help.  PLEASE!

YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF!  All information provided to the Census is confidential.  Even if you or someone you know is undocumented, it does not matter. The information cannot be shared with other government agencies.

Countv Legislator Lyndon Williams 

Early August was an especially significant period for Mt. Vernon’s County Legislator Lyndon Williams.

  1. Williams is relinquishing his County Legislator seat as he has been appointed to the Mt. Vernon City Court to replace Judge Adrian Armstrong who has been elevated to the New York State Court of Claims. Dennis was a member of the Judicial Appointment Committee who interviewed six (6) applicants for the Mt. Vernon Judgeship. All six were very impressive and the committee narrowed that field to three candidates which were submitted to Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard. The mayor then selected Lyndon Williams out of the three (3) candidates. Lyndon will serve the unexpired term of Judge Armstrong which will only run till November of this year. Mr. Williams has committed to run for reelection in November.  The Judge’s term is for ten (10) years but Lyndon Williams would only be eligible to serve for four (4) years because at that time he would have reached the mandatory retirement age of seventy (70).
  2. On Wednesday August 5, Mr. Williams and our County Executive George Latimer held a press conference at Memorial Field with an “official groundbreaking”. (See enclosed copy of Legislator Williams’ newsletter with an 8/6/20 Journal News piece on the reverse side.) HALLELUJAH! For far too long Memorial Field has been an unmitigated mess.  Mt. Vernon’s youth have been the real victims here as they have been denied the incredible recreational value that Memorial Field has long offered us all. Through hard work and commitment both Legislator Williams and County Executive Latimer have helped to bring an end to this disaster.  Cards and/or letters of thanks to both would be appropriate.
  • County Legislator Lyndon Williams (still can receive mail here)
    Westchester County office Bldg.
    148 Martine Avenue. 8th Floor
    White Plains, NY 10601
    (914) 924-7552
  • County Executive George Latimer
    Westchester County office Bldg.
    148 Martine Avenue. 9th Floor
    White Plains, NY  10601
    (914) 995-2908

$ For MVUT 

Many of you have responded generously to our appeal in our last mailing. Thank youl Thank you! Thank you! We desperately need it.   How about the rest of you? We’ve reported on all of our great victories and our ongoing campaigns.   We believe we’ve truly earned your support.  Please make a donation today.

Civil Rights Rollback in Housing

We’re enclosing two (2) pieces from the National Housing Law Proiect (NHLP) regarding the Trump administrstion’s attack on fair housing, and a Fact Sheet entitled “Discrimination Based On Race” from the Westchester County Human Rights Commission.

Covid-19

Please be careful and stay safe!
Always wear a mask when you go out
Honor Social distancing (6 feet)
Wash your hands regularly!

Download Mid-August 2020 – “News and Update” (PDF Version)

Download Lyndon Williams News Release (PDF)

Download National Housing Law Project Flyer on Civil Rights Rollback (PDF)

Early July, 2O2O News & Update

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from us as a result of this pandemic. We hope that this mailing finds you all in good health and surviving these trying times. While the office has not been officially open through the pandemic, it does not mean that we haven’t been busy, and that we haven’t been working on many important issues.

Westchester Rent Guidelines Board (WRGB) 

Despite being handicapped for this year’s process [we had one (1) tenant representative on the nine (9) member board as Jean Anderson had resigned earlier in the year and a replacement was not appointed in timel, the Westchester Rent Guidelines Board (WRGB) FROZE the rents for both one (1) and two (2) year renewal terms! These -0-% guidelines are for any lease renewals that come up between October 1,2020, and September 30,2021!  Landlords must offer you an ETPA Renewal Lease Form that lists both one (1) and two (2) year renewals at -0-% for both terms. Obviously everyone will take a two (2) year term unless you are planning to vacate after One (1) year.

The one (1) Tenant Representative remaining at the WRGB is Mt. Vernon’s own Tamara Stewart of the Plaza Buildings. As always, Tamara did an outstanding job convincing the Public Members of the plight of rent-regulated tenants and the more-than-comfortable profits that the landlords are making. Former WRGB tenant member, and now just plain Westchester tenant, Genevieve Roche, once again “crunched” the numbers in her inimitable fashion to refute landlord claims of hard times. Dennis and other MVUT members also provided compelling testimony on the tenants’ behalf.

This is a huge win for rent-stabilized tenants whose feases begin anywhere between 10/1/20 — 9/30/21.   lf you have any questions, please call the MVUT office. While landlords and their “hired guns” complain about how these guidelines are going to ruin them, the real result, along with the fabulous improvements in the state rent laws from 2019, is just to begin to “level the playing field” and limit the incredible imbalance that the landlords have always had. Congratulations to Tamara, Genevieve, the public members of the WRGB and to all Westchester rent-stabilized tenants!

Right to Counsel 

Speaking of the power imbalance that landlords have always wielded over tenants, one (1) of the clearest examples of that is local court proceedings, where virtually every landlord is represented by an attorney, while less than 5% of tenants have legal representation. while in criminal matters, every defendant is entitled to have an attorney, regardless of ability to pay, no such right extends to plaintiffs in civil matters, e.g. landlord/tenant proceedings. For the last few years there has been a growing movement throughout the country for a “Right to counsel” in landlord/tenant cases. A number of jurisdictions throughout the country, e.g. New York City, San Francisco, Newark, New Jersey, etc., have passed local “Right to Counsel” statutes, guaranteeing that tenants have legal representation in local landlord/tenant matters.

MVUT has been working with a number of different organizations (Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Hudson Valley Justice Center, The Bridge Fund, etc.) to have Westchester County adopt such a “Right to counsel” statute. We’ve been strategizing among ourselves, and have recently reached out to leaders of the Westchester Board of Legislators (w-BoL) to make an initial proposal re: the adoption of same.  Westchester Board of Legislators Member Damon Maher is taking the lead on this at this time, and we’ll be meeting with him the week of July 6.  We’re enclosing a two (2) sided sheet that has a list of the seventeen (17) county Legislators on the W-BoL with their contact information and what municipalities they represent, and on the reverse side there’s a Petition in support of Legislation for you and others in your building to sign.  Please try to get the Petition completely filled out and return it to the MVUT office.  Please call with any questions or ideas. This could be a HUGE win for tenants here in Mount Vernon and Westchester, as we continue the struggle to reverse the incredible power imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants!

Census 2020 

We’ve been informing all of our members and friends of the importance of EVERYONE’S filling out the 2020 census.  Mt. Vernon will lose huge amounts of federal dollars over the next ten (10)years if people do not fill out the Census Form.  YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF!  All information is confidential. Even if you, or someone you know is undocumented, it does not matter.  The information cannot be shared with other government agencies.   We need everyone counted to guarantee the federal dollars we are entitled to base upon our population (EVERYONE who is living here, whether overcrowded, undocumented, etc.) actually is received by Mt. Vernon.

Mt. Vernon lost tens of millions of dollars in federal funds in 2010 because of a low count. We cannot let that happen again! Make sure you respond to the Census and encourage everyone you know to do likewise!

MVUT witl be working with the County Executive’s Office on special Census Tablets. We currently have them and people can come to our office to complete the nine (9) brief questions and be COUNTED! Call the office for information, and/or to make an appointment. Let others know as well!

Hispanic Outreach 

While MVUT has always provided its services to all tenants in Westchester, the lack of a Spanish-speaking staff person has severely limited our ability to assist Spanish-speaking tenants who are a growing percentage of our population. A new grant from the city is going to permit us to hire a Spanish-speaking organizer/advocate who will assist us in finally being able to provide the full complement of our services to the Spanish-speaking tenants of Mount Vernon and Westchester. We’re very excited about this additional service capability and are looking to begin this during the summer months.  Stay tuned !

$$$ for MVUT

Just as we’ve not written to you in a while, we’ve likewise not asked you for money in a while. This pandemic has really hurt our fundraising efforts and put real strains on our limited budget. As you can see from the above, MVUT is still producing for all tenants. Just think of the savings if you’re a rent-stabilized tenant, and your lease expires between 10/1/2020 – 9/30/21 — two (2) full years with NO increase! Please fill out the attached and mail as large a donation as possible.  Thank you!!

Covid-19

Please be careful and stay safe 
Always wear a mask when you go out.
Honor Social distancing (6 feet)
Wash your hands regularly!

SUPPORT MVUT!!

Yes, I recognize the value of MVUT’s work.  Enclosed please find my contribution of

___$25   ___$50   ____$100  ____$250   ____Other Among

Name:
Address:
Telephone:
Email:

Sincerely,

Dennis Hanratty
Executive Director
Mt. Vernon United Tenants
(914) 699-1114

Early July 2020 News and Update

Petition for Right to Counsel, and Contact Info For Legislators