BY SAM SPOKONY |
UPDATE (Sat., Dec. 1): On Friday, just a day after Speaker Silver voiced his response to the anti-eviction waiver in this newspaper, NYCHA Chairman John Rhea announced that the moratorium has now been extended to Feb. 1.
The New York City Housing Authority announced last Friday that, until Jan. 1, it will not evict or continue Housing Court actions against any of its residential tenants who are short on rent due to the impact of Superstorm Sandy.
That decision affects nearly a third of NYCHA’s developments in Manhattan, or a total of more than 170 individual buildings.
Most of the borough’s developments that were impacted by the storm are in the Lower East Side and East Village — an area that includes nearly 10 percent of all NYCHA tenants in the city.
Several public housing developments on Manhattan’s West Side also suffered due to Sandy and are now under the eviction moratorium, including the Chelsea-Elliot Houses and Fulton Houses, both located in Chelsea and with nearly 2,000 apartments total.
The eviction moratorium’s end will coincide with the beginning of NYCHA’s payout of rent credits to tenants who went days or weeks without vital services, such as electricity, heat, hot water and elevators as a result of the storm.
While the temporary halt on evictions and suspension of Housing Court actions will certainly help many tenants recover from the economic hardship Sandy wrought, some believe NYCHA should consider extending the moratorium past the start of the new year.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver explained that he fully supports the decision, but stressed that the Jan. 1 deadline may not give all of the affected tenants enough time to get back on their feet, considering that many lost a great deal of food, medicine and other perishables, in addition to lost income from time missed at work.
“I urge NYCHA to re-evaluate the needs of Lower Manhattan residents after the eviction moratorium expires on Jan. 1,” Silver said, “to determine whether even more time is needed for people to put their lives back together.”
Aixa Torres, tenant association president of the Smith Houses, on the Lower East Side, also said that she agreed with the moratorium, but added her strong belief that it should run until February rather than January.
“That would give people time to file their taxes and get their tax refunds, so they can more comfortably pay their rent,” Torres said.
All 12 of the Smith Houses buildings — with a total of 6,000 tenants — are included in NYCHA’s eviction moratorium. Torres said she knows at least one family in each building that would have faced the threat of eviction if not for the moratorium.
NYCHA rents vary widely. While the average monthly rent for the agency’s apartments was $434 as of January 2012, Torres pointed out she pays $1,200, and added that many people in her development pay similar amounts.
The average family income in public housing was just under $23,000 as of January 2012, according to NYCHA’s Web site.