Hochul faces first test in eviction moratorium special session

Photo Credit: The Flatbush Tenant Coalition

Governor Kathy Hochul will face her first test Wednesday at threading the needle between tenant activists calling for an extension of the moratorium for evictions and landlords saying the moratorium puts them on the hook to pay millions of dollars in taxes while not getting any rent.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn) confirmed the State Legislature will hold a special session at noon on Sept. 1 in a deal to extend the moratorium, which expired Tuesday, Aug. 31 to probably January 2022. The deal will include a way for landlords to have the ability to still go to court to evict tenants if the tenants cannot prove they have not been paying rent for COVID-related reasons, Abbate said.

Hochul was expected to officially announce the session at a press announcement Tuesday night.

The special session comes following the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week effectively ending the federal eviction moratorium. It also comes as New York has received $2.7 billion through the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds, but has only doled out $156 million to 12,000 applicants since the program started on June 1, despite having over 160,000 New Yorkers applying.

“Small landlords probably won’t be happy with this deal,” said Abbate, adding that a lot of tenants are refusing to sign the ERAP form because it allows the rent money to go directly to the landlord.

“This is ridiculous because it will get tenants off the hook for more than a year of rent,” Abbate added.

News of the special session comes as the leftist organization Housing Justice for All led hundreds of tenants on a March in Manhattan Tuesday from the City Marshal’s office at 109 W 38th St. to Hochul’s Manhattan office at 633 Third Ave.. 

The tenants called on Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins to strengthen and extend the moratorium to stop evictions until the ERAP funds are distributed.

“Tenants can’t afford to pay our rent because we aren’t working… we don’t have jobs. We need Albany to stop all evictions, now. And keep them stopped. We need rent relief to come fast, not dragging on. We need our elected officials to do their job because housing is a human right,” said Flatbush Tenant Coalition tenant leader Paulette James.

But Joseph Strasburg — president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 landlords that have over 1 million apartments — threatened to take legal action if state lawmakers enact legislation that disregards and attempts to circumvent the Supreme Court decision which overturned a Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium.

“Financially desperate tenants and landlords don’t need a special legislative session, they need Albany to get the billions of dollars from the federally funded Emergency Rental Assistance Program out the door – yesterday, last week, two months ago,” said Strasburg.

“Everyone in Albany claims they’re laser-focused on this task, yet they continue to bog down the process in politics, once again kicking the can down the road instead of putting rent relief money into the hands of hundreds of thousands of desperate New Yorkers,” he added.