Legal Aid wants thousands of homeless New Yorkers to be protected under rent regulations

Lawsuit could set a legal precedent
August 28, 2017 11:30AM

Clockwise from left: 270 Clarkson Avenue, 279 Kosciusko Street, DHS Administrator Joslyn Carter and 553 Hinsdale Street

A potential precedent-setting case by the Legal Aid Society seeks to win tenants’ rights for thousands of homeless New Yorkers who get free rent through the city’s “cluster shelter” program.

Under the program, the city Department of Homeless Services contracts with nonprofit service providers, which then sign leases with private landlords to pay rent on behalf of the homeless individuals and their families.

But in a lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, the Legal Aid Society claims that units in the cluster program are exempt from rent regulation, removing affordable apartments from the market, the New York Post reported.

“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Legal Aid attorney Kathleen Brennan said.

The case centers on seven rent-stabilized buildings in Brooklyn owned and operated by Barry Hers: 60, 250 and 270 Clarkson Avenue, 279 Kosciusko Street, 401 East 21st Street, 553 Hinsdale Street and 666 Hancock Street.

The landlord’s attorney said in court papers that “no future landlord would ever consider participating in providing housing to homeless families” if they are forced to comply with the rent regulations laws. Hers said in court papers that city officials didn’t consider homeless occupants as legal tenants when they came for help in 2001.

Mayor Bill de Blasio last year said he wanted to phase out the cluster-site program that has housed up to 11,000 people in 3,600 apartments because of unsafe conditions and the loss of low-rent apartments. But like past mayors, he has not been successful in stepping away from the program. [NYP]Rich Bockmann