TENANTS ON THEIR OWN IN COURT UNLESS BUDGET BUDGES

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It’s white-knuckle time for an array of the city’s non-profit groups, which will have to close their doors or greatly reduce services if the City Council can’t convince the Giuliani administration to change its plan to cut 15 percent of the budgets of most city agencies.

Several key groups that provide advice and legal support to tenants facing eviction are on the chopping block. “We’ll have to shut our doors,” said Adam Weinstein, director of Goddard Riverside’s West Side SRO Law Project, which each year stops evictions for about 350 tenants in the city’s remaining single room occupancy hotels. “After 20 years, there would be no more West Side SRO.”

The mayor’s plan, submitted to the City Council last Wednesday, proposes nearly $3 million in cuts from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development–almost of all which funded tenant advocacy programs promoted by the council, including every cent left in this year’s budget for tenant legal services, like the $260,000 that would have gone to West Side SRO.

The City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, already reeling from state budget cuts that forced its lawyers to reduce their hours at the city’s eight housing courts, will have to virtually shut down. If the proposal to cut $175,000 of its budget stands, says task force executive director Jodi Harawitz, she will have to reduce staff from 10 to three and close the housing court tables, operating only a tenant hotline. Last year, the task force served 60,000 tenants and small property owners, said Harawitz.

The only hope for these groups and threatened services for youth, seniors, child care and mental health services is if the outgoing crop of council members can pressure the mayor to submit a revised budget modification with less drastic cuts. Negotiations between the mayor’s staff and the council are ongoing, and a revised budget plan is expected late this week.

Councilmembers and staff contacted by City Limits said they would fight to preserve key services, but they made no specific promises on which funding could be saved.

Other threatened funding includes:

• $397,000 from the Community Consultant Contract’s $1 million budget. This HPD program funds the tenant advocacy and organizing work of about 50 agencies citywide. The Community Training and Resource Center, one of CCC’s beneficiaries, could suffer a double blow: Its $200,000 landlord training program which teaches building owners to maintain their buildings and manage their accounts, was cut in half.

• More than $9 million from the Department of Youth and Community Development, including a 50 percent reduction in the $62,000 that each City Council member doles out each year to youth groups in their neighborhood.

• $902,000 from Department of Homeless Services’ family rental assistance program, which provides rental payments to help homeless families move into and stay in apartments.

• A 15 percent cut in the city’s subsidy to the New York City Housing Authority. At $3.6 million, it’s a relatively small percentage of the agency ‘s primarily federally-funded $2 billion-plus budget, but NYCHA spokesman Howard Marder acknowledges, without listing specifics, that “it will impact the services we offer our residences. There are things we won’t be able to do.”