Lawmakers tell Cuomo to beef up eviction ban

March 15 order halting all evictions expires this weekend

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty)
Governor Andrew Cuomo (Getty)

More than 50 New York lawmakers called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to strengthen his eviction ban extension, which allows some tenants to be ousted starting Monday.

The 56 lawmakers urged the governor to instead extend the universal ban that has been in place since March 15, when the state’s top administrative judge, Lawrence Marks, halted all evictions until further notice.

High-ranking members of both legislative houses signed the letter, including Sen. Michael Gianaris and the chairs of both the Senate and Assembly’s housing committees, but it was not signed by the leader of each chamber.

Some lawmakers have promoted the eviction ban as a way to keep tenants safe from the coronavirus.

“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between their health and their homes,” Sen. Brian Kavanagh said in a prepared statement. “This is not the time to ease up on the actions that helped keep New Yorkers out of harm’s way. We need the governor to amend the extended moratorium before the Housing Court reopens.”

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The lawmakers said the governor’s pending eviction order does not relieve the “fear and anxiety when confronting evictions and displacement” and instead places the burden on tenants to prove they need to be protected. The governor’s May order also does not preclude holdover evictions, which are for reasons other than non-payment of rent.

About 3,000 eviction notices sent before March 16 are now stale, and will need to be resent — which the lawmakers warned will prompt an influx of tenants to the notoriously crowded Housing Court.

“Court efficiency and business as usual in a pandemic are not the priority,” the letter reads. “We urge you to issue an eviction moratorium that protects all New York tenants for the duration of the crisis and to order the court system to fully and functionally close for all eviction proceedings.”

Although the original eviction ban is set to expire Saturday, the courts have not yet issued an administrative order to clarify how the governor’s more limited ban would be implemented. The lack of guidance prompted confusion earlier this week, when New York City’s top Housing Court judge told attorneys that Judge Marks’ original eviction ban would still stand.

A court spokesperson said at the time the court was awaiting the governor’s decision, but would not characterize that decision. The court is set to issue further guidance this week, before Housing Court reopens.