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NYC Council moves to join lawsuit to force Mayor Adams to enact rental voucher reforms

Chris Sommerfeldt, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

The City Council moved Wednesday to join a lawsuit that seeks to force Mayor Eric Adams to implement a new set of laws designed to make it easier for low-income New Yorkers to access the city’s rental assistance program.

The Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit was first filed last week by four New Yorkers at risk of homelessness who’d become eligible for vouchers via the program, CityFHEPS, if the mayor allowed the laws to take effect.

The laws would expand access to the program, which subsidizes rent on open market apartments, by increasing the income eligibility cap and eliminating a rule that requires beneficiaries to enter a homeless shelter before they can apply for a voucher, among other provisions.

The Council — which passed the laws last summer and then overrode the mayor’s vetoes of them — filed a motion Wednesday morning to become a plaintiff in the suit alongside the four CityFHEPS applicants.

The motion, which needs to be approved by a judge, argues that by not implementing the CityFHEPS reforms the mayor’s not just depriving more New Yorkers of vouchers but also violating the City Charter.

“Because the Council validly enacted the CityFHEPS reform laws, the mayor is now legally required by the Charter to implement them. But he refuses to do so,” the motion states. “His refusal not only deprives New Yorkers of housing benefits to which they are entitled under the law; it usurps the powers of the Council, a co-equal branch of City government, and it upends the separation of powers enshrined in the City Charter.”

 

A spokesman for the mayor didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The mayor has argued the laws would be too expensive, predicting they would cost the city $17 billion over the next five years if enacted. The Council has argued that price tag is exaggerated.

On Tuesday, Lisa Zornberg, Adams’ City Hall counsel, said in a press briefing that the mayor’s administration also believes the reforms oversteps the Council’s authority.

“However well intended they were in passing the law, it’s our belief as a legal matter that that law goes beyond the City Council’s authority and that it’s actually preempted by existing state law,” Zornberg told reporters at City Hall. “So, there are significant legal issues and they will play out in court.”


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