Jing Jiang / Sun Senior Photographer

Evictions proceedings for Collegetown apartments, and all rental properties in New York State, are suspended indefinitely.

March 17, 2020

N.Y. Judge Bans Evictions Statewide, Local Activists Push Protections for Renters and Workers Against COVID-19 Induced Financial Woes

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In a string of recent measures taken to mitigate the pandemic of coronavirus is a statewide ban on evictions, which was ruled to go into effect on Tuesday by New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Malks.

As of March 16, eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders will be suspended until further notice from the state government. The ban applies to residential as well as commercial evictions.

The ban follows in the tracks of the March 13 one-week suspension of all evictions in New York City. Discussions of renters’ protection has been prevalent across the state this last week, with State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-N.Y.) writing a letter — signed by 24 of his colleagues — to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) urging him to halt evictions.

Local activist groups, such as the Ithaca Tenants Union and the Tompkins County Workers Center, were pushing for protective action for tenants when Malks’s decision came through.

“There’s often a divide between renters and landlords, now is the time for us to treat everyone as community members,” said Liel Sterling ’21, one of the founders of the newly formed ITU.

The ITU is a group founded by School of Industrial and Labor Relations juniors Elijah Fox ’21, Kataryna Restrepo ’21 and Sterling that advocates for renters’ rights, such as privacy and adequate heating and living conditions.

Sterling said that when the University canceled classes, the ITU immediately began discussing protection for renters against eviction and began signing statewide petitions to encourage government officials to take action.

The speed of Malks’s decision came as a slight surprise, Sterling said. But this only means that ITU, and other advocacy groups, are looking toward next steps.

The COVID-19 pandemic also brings monthly rent payments to the discussion table, as workers who are losing hours due to business closures will be short on money, according to Pete Meyers, one of the co-founders of the Tompkins County Workers Center, which has been working in tandem with the ITU to protect renters during this crisis.

Meyers said that the TCWC, along with other advocacy groups, are calling for a rent freeze during the COVID-19 crisis, though he recognized that many landlords would need financial compensation as a result.

Meyers said that other possible next steps to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 on Ithaca renters and workers are to provide temporary universal income, paid sick leave and for Cornell to contribute more into the local economy.

“This crisis has given us an opportunity to look at things [which] historically, we wanted anyway,” Meyers said.