Nonprofit community and legal groups joined together yesterday in Downtown Brooklyn to announce a new coalition to fight for the rights of tenants in Brooklyn Housing Court.
The new group, Brooklyn Tenants United, has partnered with Council Members Letitia James and Diana Reyna and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries to release a new Make the Road New York report, “Home Court Advantage: How Landlords Are Winning and Tenants Are Losing at Brooklyn Housing Court.” The report has found that in Brooklyn Housing Court, 85% of landlords are represented in court while approximately 95% of tenants are not.
According to the Daily News, leaders of the coalition met with Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern Fisher last month to discuss ways to fix the borough’s housing court system. They call the aging housing court building, at 141 Livingston Street, “grossly inadequate” for the number of cases that come through it’s doors.
Of the housing court, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle describes that “litigants are funneled through winding security lines and metal detectors before waiting en masse for overcrowded elevators,” and that tenants, landlords and lawyers crowd the hallways because of the courtrooms do not have enough seats.
A press release from Legal Services NYC says the current Brooklyn Housing Court also provides “inadequate access to information and services, and disrespectful treatment by court staff.”
“Everyone should be able to go to court and find justice,” said Gladys Puglla, of Make the Road New York, in a statement. “Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible for tenants to find justice at Brooklyn Housing Court. It’s an intimidating, confusing place, especially for people who don’t have a lawyer, and most tenants don’t have a lawyer.”
Judge Fisher told the Daily News that she will already be implementing some recommendations, like benches in court hallways, easier-to-read signs to help navigate the building, and a posting of judge’s rules in every courtroom, to explain how to check in and wait for a case.
Some other recommendations may not be feasible because of budget limitations, she told the paper.
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