Posts by Author: Kelly Regan

Year One of NYC Tenant Right to Counsel Program

(Photo by Jonathunder)

Under a 2017 law, New York City provides free legal assistance for qualified tenants facing eviction in housing court. According to a new report released by the city’s Office of Civil Justice (OCJ), the “Universal Access” program has kept more than 21,000 renters in their homes during 2018.

The report, “Universal Access to Legal Services: A Report on Year One of Implementation in New York City,” states that during fiscal 2018, 21,955 city residents across 7,847 households who were threatened with eviction were able to remain in their homes after securing legal representation from OCJ-funded lawyers. Furthermore, in the last quarter of fiscal 2018, approximately 34 percent of tenants citywide who were in Housing Court for eviction proceedings were represented by counsel.

The report hails these numbers an essential step toward leveling the playing field for NYC’s low-income tenants, “not only saving thousands of tenancies but also promoting the preservation of affordable housing and neighborhood stability.”

As Next City has reported, after more than three years of community organizing in support of the bill, last year New York became the first U.S. city to pass a right-to-counsel law for housing court. The OCJ report analyzes Year One of what will be a five-year rollout of the plan across the city. As of late 2018, only 15 of the city’s 211 ZIP codes are now active in the program.

Gothamist reports that housing advocates have called the initial rollout promising, but uneven. According to the website, “Court-appointed lawyers have started to transform the predatory environment of housing court, resulting in fewer evictions, but some eligible tenants still slip through the cracks, and implementation has been more successful in some boroughs than others.”

Figures cited in the report underscore that point. Overall, in the 15 zip codes that have adopted tenant protections, approximately 56 percent of tenants in Housing Court received legal assistance. Breaking it down by borough, Staten Island claimed the highest legal representation rate, at 77 percent, followed by Brooklyn at 72 percent, Manhattan at 61 percent, The Bronx at 52 percent, and Queens at just 41 percent.

What’s next? According to WNYC, council members Vanessa Gibson and Mark Levine have introduced legislation that would raise the income threshold from 200 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty line, which would bring under the umbrella any tenants making the $15 NYC minimum wage.

Since New York’s law took effect, in August 2017, San Francisco voters approved a similar measure, Proposition F, earlier this year.


Some Brotherly Love for Buses in Newly Unveiled Seven-Year Transit Plan

Expanding the “efficacy, affordability, and connectivity” of the bus system is a priority in Philadelphia's CONNECT Strategic Transportation Plan. (AP Photo/George Widman)

Philadelphia Mayor Tom Kenney and the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS) have unveiled their seven-year Strategic Transportation Plan, which reflects the city’s vision for a “safe, affordable, accessible and reliable” transit ecosystem. According to PlanPhilly, the report, which outlines a strategy from 2019 through 2025, gathers together the disparate strands of various transportation initiatives into a unified vision.

That vision, however, is intended to be smaller-scale and more practical in scope. PlanPhilly quoted the city’s Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis in calling it a “strategic plan, not a long-term plan that’s going to wait for hundreds of millions or billions of dollars of state and federal investment, but one that does better with what we have.”

Of the city’s four major modes of public transit (bus, subway, trolley, regional rail), the plan strongly emphasizes investment in the bus and trolley systems. The plan promises upgrades to the trolley fleet, and modernization to stations including wheelchair- and stroller-accessibility.

But the plan’s biggest push will be to improve the “efficacy, affordability, and connectivity” of the bus system, as a way to reverse a declining ridership.

“Focusing on the bus network redesign will benefit not only [about] 26 percent of people that are currently using transit, but all the people that might want to use transit if it worked for them,” OTIS Director of Policy Chris Puchalsky told PlanPhilly. “It will also benefit the 46 percent of people in poverty who ride the bus.”

Among the changes to the bus system will be ending SEPTA’s transfer fees, transforming existing bus lanes, and instituting “new bus priority treatments,” according to the report.

The report also commits to expanding Philly’s Indego bike-share program, which encompasses 128 stations and 1,300 bikes, with nearly 40 percent of stations situated in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. The plan proposes to continue expansion and go deeper and denser into pockets of the city with already high ridership. According to the CONNECT report, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of people who commute by bicycle of any large city in the U.S.

But this recommendation comes as reports that Kenney’s administration has scaled back its commitment to instituting dedicated bike lanes around the city. Although Kenney promised the creation of 30 new miles of bike lanes during his administration, according to, the new goal is 20 miles of bike lanes by 2020 and 40 miles by 2025. As Next City has reported, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has pressured the city to work with the community to accelerate its Vision Zero rollout to reduce pedestrian and bike fatalities.

Other report highlights include the shift of SEPTA’s funding burden to regional stakeholders as well as the expansion of “neighborhood slow zones,” featuring traffic circles and speed cushions, to calm traffic.

You can read the entire report here.


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