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Why New York Lawmakers Are Holding a Special Session on Evictions

[Want to get New York Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.] It’s Wednesday. Weather: There will likely be showers in the morning and possibly …

Why New York Lawmakers Are Holding a Special Session on Evictions

[Want to get New York Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.]

It’s Wednesday.

Weather: There will likely be showers in the morning and possibly thunderstorms by midday. Expect a high in the low 70s.Showers tonight with a chance of high winds.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Sept. 6 (Labor Day).


Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

The State Legislature is expected to gather for a special session today to extend New York’s eviction moratorium into early 2022.

The moratorium expired yesterday, but in a rare move, Gov. Kathy Hochul called lawmakers back to Albany to consider extending it. More than 800,000 households in New York are behind on rent, according to one estimate.

The special session comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a key part of New York’s eviction policy. Last week, the court also rejected the Biden administration’s federal moratorium on evictions, making state-level safeguards even more important.

Here’s a Q. and A. with reporter Luis Ferré-Sadurní to explain what’s happening.

[Read more about this rare special session on the eviction freeze.]

Why did Hochul call for a special session?

The primary reason is that the state’s eviction moratorium, which was implemented to protect renters during the pandemic, expired Tuesday. Lawmakers are expected to do two things in Albany.

One is to vote to extend the moratorium, possibly until mid-January. The second is to modify the moratorium so it complies with a Supreme Court ruling that recently blocked one of its key measures.

Democrats, who are in the majority, believe they have the votes, as well as the support of Gov. Kathy C. Hochul, to do both.

What is the Legislature hoping to provide for renters?

Time. The moratorium on evictions is a short-term solution, a stopgap precipitated by the pandemic after so many tenants lost their jobs and were unable to pay rent.

The $2.7 billion in rent relief is supposed to help low-income renters pay overdue rent. By paying the rent, they can stay in their homes. But the state has been incredibly slow at disbursing the money, with only about $200 million released so far. The application process has been confusing for landlords and tenants — if they know about the program at all.

How are landlords likely to respond?

They have been focused on how lawmakers will craft legislation so it conforms with the Supreme Court ruling, which had sided with landlords. Under the moratorium, tenants could obtain protection from eviction if they filed a form saying they had suffered financial hardship, such as loss of income. Landlords said they had no way of challenging those forms, arguing that some tenants could be using them to stay in their homes without paying rent even though they had the ability to do so.

On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to modify the moratorium so landlords can challenge the claims in court. Even so, we could see lawsuits from landlord groups.

What’s the status of the rent relief program? Can that help renters avoid eviction right now?

Yes. Tenants who qualify can apply to a state program that is disbursing $2.7 billion in aid to help cover, among other things, up to 12 months of unpaid rent.

Renters who apply are protected from eviction during the application process. Those who are approved are protected from eviction for a full year.


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Want more news? Check out our full coverage.

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.


What we’re reading

Businesses around college campuses are eagerly awaiting the return of classes with hopes that student spending will help them make it out of the pandemic. [The City]

Two men from Brooklyn have been charged in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6. [New York Post]

A small crowd of locals protested outside of the gutted Grand Prospect Hall. [Gothamist]


And finally: The Queens tennis courts where Naomi Osaka learned to play

Alyson Krueger for The Times writes:

Just a few days before Naomi Osaka, the defending champion of the United States Open, stepped onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens, for her first match of the 2021 tournament, the four-time Grand Slam title winner made another stop in Queens: to an unassuming public park in Jamaica.

There, at Detective Keith L. Williams Park, Ms. Osaka attended the unveiling of five renovated tennis courts with new nets and surfaces, all of which are surrounded by newly painted graphics and symbols. With funding from Bodyarmor, the sports drink company based in Whitestone, Queens, Ms. Osaka served as a creative and practical adviser on how to refurbish the tennis courts.

After all, it was personal for her.

Ms. Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese (and who represents Japan when she competes), was 3 years old when her family left Osaka, Japan, for Elmont, a hamlet on Long Island near the Queens border. Soon after, her father started to bring Naomi and her younger sister, Mari, to the Jamaica courts because they were free and inclusive. The sisters learned how to play tennis there. Naomi went on to become the No. 1 player in the world in 2019.

“As a traveling athlete, the place that always feels like home is Queens and these courts,” said Ms. Osaka, who played tennis in Jamaica until her family left the area for Pembroke Pines, Fla., when she was 8. “Mari and I spent so much time here as kids, so many hours on these courts, practicing, and we really feel a connection to not only the courts but the area and the community.”

It’s Wednesday — savor the memories.


Metropolitan Diary: Sneezing

Dear Diary:

A friend and I were walking along East 46th Street when I sneezed. There were two men walking behind us.

“Bless you,” one of them said.

“Thank you,” I said.

A moment later, I sneezed again.

“Gesundheit,” the second man said.

“Thank you,” I said again.

A half-hour later, we got to my friend’s building, on East 47th Street. Approaching the elevator, we saw the same two men. They held the door for us.

“Oh look,” one of them said as we stepped in. “It’s the sneezer.”

— Beth Kehoe

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.


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