A group of evacuees left homeless by Superstorm Sandy are suing to stay in hotels that the city says they need to leave by tomorrow.
Six months to the day that Sandy hit New York City, five individuals filed a lawsuit today to prevent the city from following through with its deadline to end its temporary hotel program for Sandy victims.
Calling the city's deadlines "arbitrary," the suit seeks to force the city to keep paying for hotels until the residents can secure permanent housing. The lawsuit also says that the city's evictions notices were served without a fair hearing, which attorneys say does not comply with federal and state law.
"They have attempted to use whatever resources have been made available to them," said the complaint, "but have been stymied by poor case work, a lack of adequate housing resources and the failure of government agencies to timely implement forthcoming federally-funded housing resources."
The news came on the heels of a rally held in front of City Hall today, where a range of labor, faith and reform groups asked the city to extend the hotel deadline. They also called on the city to address the invasive mold problem in afflicted housing and properly track how the city spends money devoted to Sandy recovery.
Council members Donovan Richards and Brad Lander introduced a bill last week that would track how the government spends Sandy relief funds, including the $1.77 billion the city expects to received through the community development block grant.
"The City Council legislation we're unveiling today will help track how recovery dollars are spent, and ensure that new jobs created as part of the rebuilding process are good jobs for families and households hit hardest by Sandy," Richards said today. "Residents who are still struggling to pick up the pieces six months after Sandy deserve to know that the city is actually investing in their recovery."
Nathalie Alegre of the Alliance for a Greater New York said that the organizations gathered — including members from 32BJ, VOCAL-NY, Good Jobs New York and Faith in NY — were there to ask the city to help the communities still most in need after last year's devastating storm.
"The reality is that the communities hardest hit, particularly low-income communities of color, continue to struggle," she said.
Allison Puglisi, 46, lived in Staten Island's South Beach neighborhood before Sandy and mold forced her out of her home. Currently living in a hotel, Puglisi said she knows that many of those in her hotel are being forced out tomorrow despite what she called a humanitarian need.
"I've lived here my whole life," Puglisi said. "This is supposed to be the greatest city in the world, and I don't understand this."
UPDATE: Thomas Crane of NYC's Law Department provived a statement that the city "made heroic efforts after Hurricane Sandy" and that the "complaint is without merit."
While the city said that it had not been served by late Monday, Crane also wrote that a restraining order preventing the evacuee's eviction signed by the New York State Supreme Court violated the law. The administration, he said, should have received notice before the order was entered.
"We will be in court tomorrow morning to vigorously challenge it," Crane wrote.
UPDATE 2: Councilwoman Annabel Palma, chair of the Council's general welfare committee, released a statement restraining order on Monday night.
“Today's ruling is a welcome relief to the hundreds of families living in hotels who cannot afford to have their lives uprooted once again," she wrote. "But it should not have come to this; New Yorkers should know that they will not be abandoned by the city in time of great need."