With banners and loud voices, a small group of tenants and activists accompanied Beverly Rivers to her eviction date in housing court in Brooklyn.
Lesley Ann Jules, also faces an eviction order.
“Many of the tenants have been living in the building for 20, 30, 40 years, many of them don’t know how to fight landlord abuse, and we don’t have the financial resources to afford a lawyer,” Jules said.
Although Rivers managed to get legal representation to prevent the owner of the Lenox Street building from evicting him from the apartment, more than four thousand people who have been sent an eviction letter since January 2022 face a battle of David against Goliath, without a lawyer.
“I’m here to talk about the importance of our right to have legal representation to fight against landlords,” Rivers said.
The right to have a lawyer to face a judge in housing court in the state of NY, was approved in 2017. However, this court has denied them that right, leaving thousands of people vulnerable who could be evicted by the reasons that the landlords argue.
“To ask NYC to enforce this law that everyone has the right to a lawyer,” said Marilyn Fabiola, a Flatbush Tenant Coalition activist.
“Because as you can imagine, if someone, especially if they’re an immigrant and English isn’t their first language, it’s very difficult and being there in court, faced with eviction. It is horrible not knowing your legal rights and not understanding the language and facing it alone, it is unfair and this is a matter of human rights,” Fabiola added.
“I told the owner of my building that, instead of evicting us, evict the rats and cockroaches that abound in each apartment, every time we complain they send us a letter asking us to leave,” Jules added.
Many of the conditions of the properties are in deplorable conditions, say these tenants, however, the reasons of the landlords seem to weigh more before the court, they say.
“There shouldn’t even be a good reason to evict anyone from their home, just because they don’t have money they shouldn’t end up living on the streets in one of the richest countries on the planet,” said Khadisha Hends of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition. .
Additionally, tenants are asking state legislators to earmark $172 million for lawyers in the 2024 budget,