By Bill Parry
The potential eviction of Tyshema Basnight, who moved into the Queensbridge Houses to care for her cancer-stricken mother, has drawn attention to the lack of legal services that are available to the residents of the New York City Housing Authority. In Basnight’s case, NYCHA’s one-year rule may force her and her two children to leave because they weren’t permanent residents for an entire year when her mother, Corine, died in November 2012.
The rule requires that adult children of a tenant-of-record live in the apartment for at least one year to inherit the residential unit. City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), said he has seen NYCHA use the rule 10 or 11 times to evict people.
On Monday, Van Bramer and the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center launched free legal clinic services to help people in Basnight’s predicament. The project’s lawyers agreed to take Basnight’s case and filed an appeal, although NYCHA is still seeking her eviction.
“NYCHA residents deserve stability and the right to live in dignity,” Van Bramer said. “We are launching the Safety Net Project in the Queensbridge Houses to provide residents with free legal services. Through these services thousands of NYCHA residents will be given the legal resources they need to fight against wrongful evictions and poor living conditions that have plagued so many families for far too long. I am proud to have partnered with my colleagues in the Queens delegation to allocate $50,000 toward these services for NYCHA residents. I hope to expand these vital services to even more NYCHA residents throughout the borough next year.”
The announcement was made at the Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing development, in Long Island City. Van Bramer represents District 26, which is home to 10,000 NYCHA residents, many of whom do not have access to affordable legal services.
The “NYCHA Dignity Campaign” will begin biweekly legal clinics at the Jacob Riis Settlement House on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Staffed by a team of experienced attorneys, advocates, researchers, and operations staff, the project provides direct representation to New Yorkers experiencing problems with Public Assistance benefits, SNAP benefits, Shelter Application for homeless families and adult couples, as well as problems with public housing.
“This free service will be vital for all NYCHA residents,” said April Simpson-Taylor, president of the Queensbridge Tenants Association, said. “A lot of residents will use this service because of the issues they face with housing. Whether they are with repairs in apartments, pending evictions or termination of their leases, these free legal services will give a voice to residents when it comes to fighting for the issues they care deeply about. I have nothing but great hope for this program and we hope it goes on to make the lives of NYCHA residents better.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.