COUNCIL MEMBER MARK LEVINE SPOKE AND ANSWERED QUESTIONS ON MANY TOPICS
RIGHT TO COUNSEL - This is the right for tenants who can't afford lawyers to have them provided for free in Housing Court. NYC is the first place in the U.S. that this exists, and because of it, evictions are down 37%. (In part, landlords are bringing fewer cases knowing that the tenants will be represented by lawyers from nonprofit organizations.) The program is being rolled out slowly over 5 years and this is only year 1 - so this drop is significant! With the lobbying and backing of CASA and other tenant organizations, Mark led the fight for this bill to success in the NYC Council.
The drop in evictions has also led to a drop in the number of families showing up at city homeless shelters. The shelter system houses over 60,000 people a night, primarily families with children - more than at any time since the Great Depression. Some 25,000 children per night stay in these shelters. Most of the homeless are not mentally ill or addicted. The bulk of them simply cannot pay their rent, even though they are employed.
SAVING LOCAL STORES - There is almost no protection for these stores and city-wide about 20% of storefronts are vacant. The City Council and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer are proposing a few remedies to stop the "chainification" of NYC:
- right to council for small businesses
- a tax on the owners of buildings whose storefronts are vacant
- a Small Business Job Survival Act would require binding arbitration if a building owner and store owner cannot come to an agreement on renewing their lease
- rezoning. Gale Brewer arranged the rezoning of 96th - 110th Streets to limit the amount of storefront to 45 feet. The result is that chain stores are not interested, but smaller businesses are.