Tenants and Right to Counsel NYC hold mock court for bad landlords

New Yorkers filled the basement of 125 Barclay St. to take “bad city landlords” to task for their poor treatment of tenants. (Photo courtesy of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition.)

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | New Yorkers indicted city landlords for criminal and civil crimes against tenants’ rights during a mock trial hosted by the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition in Tribeca earlier this week.

“We want to also indict the federal state and city as co-conspirators for their rezoning laws … the tax breaks they give landlords … and for allowing harassment,” said mock juror Iris Morales, who is a former member of the Young Lord civil rights group. “We also indict the banks that support these abusive practices.”

The mock court hearing at 125 Barclay St. was held roughly a week after the coalition released a list of New York City’s worst evictors, which placed Philip Wischerth from the LeFrak Organization, which owns the Queens apartment complex LeFrak City, at the top. The list is comprised of 10 landlords who accounted for 2,182 evictions in the city last year.

Some of those testifying included tenants of buildings owned by the landlords featured on the Worst Evictors list.

Tenants also testified against the Office of Court Administration for their culpability in what they argue is an unjust culture in the city’s housing courts.

“We all know housing courts are not a place of justice,” said Marilyn Mullins, a Community Action for Safe Apartments leader. “They are often hostile and confusing places for tenants.”

During the hearing, tenants stated 12 demands for the city, including passing legislation to expand the city’s Right to Counsel law to include all zip codes, to place a moratorium on evictions in the winters and for an investigation into those on the coalition’s Worst Evictors list.

The Eviction Defense Network, a group to fight against evictions, was launched during the tribunal.

“Evictions are wrong,”said Juan Nuñez, from the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition.” We have to resist them in every way, shape and form.”