More than bricklayers or exterminators, the New York City Housing Authority spends approximately $8 million a year on a team of 98 lawyers to litigate against its 600,000 tenants.
When residents make complaints or seek repairs they are often confronted by a lawyer instead of a repairman, according to the New York Daily News. In one extreme case an East Harlem resident was left without hot water for nearly two years. And when a judge awarded her $20,000, she was contacted by a NYCHA lawyer and told the agency would appeal the decision.
“It’s a very unfortunate and unusual situation that left people without hot water for an extended period of time,” NYCHA Chairman John Rhea told the Daily News. “No New Yorker should have to live without hot water.”
But these kinds of cases are not uncommon. When a NYCHA resident is forced to fight for a repair in court, they often face highly trained lawyers without any legal representation themselves. NYCHA lawyers are frequently able to have cases postponed by promising forthcoming repairs.
“In 99 percent of the cases, tenants are not represented by lawyers,” Harvey Epstein of the Urban Justice Center told the Daily News. “NYCHA is always represented by their lawyers and they push back.”