NY Legal Aid Launches Public Housing Unit With Team of 5

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Lucy Newman
Lucy Newman
New York Legal Aid says it is launching a public housing unit under the leadership of a civil law reform unit staff attorney that will confront the multifaceted challenges faced by the hundreds of thousands of New York City Housing Authority residents.

Lucy Newman will lead four people who specialize in NYCHA as well as general housing matters, Legal Aid said Monday. They are staff attorney Alex McDougall and paralegals Ayana Heyward, Pilar Karlin and Martha Carrasquillo.

The unit's launch comes at a time when Newman says public housing is being converted to different programs and other funding sources.

"There's even more urgency to help the residents that live there to understand what those changes mean for them, and how they can be protected, but also for our colleagues to understand … how those changes in funding and programming impact their ability to defend our clients in different forums," she told Law360 Pulse on Tuesday.

NYCHA provides housing for one in 17 New Yorkers, according to 2023 statistics from the authority. It serves 360,970 residents in 177,569 apartments. But Newman says New York City's public housing infrastructure suffers from subpar conditions and a funding crisis.

"That funding crisis has led the authority to look at different ways to address those funding needs, and a lot of those involve converting public housing to the Section 8 program," she explained, referring to the voucher program that lets residents rent in the private market. "And that conversion from public housing to Section 8 poses a lot of questions to the residents that live there — valuable, legitimate questions that they have around what that transfer and funding means."

Among the issues Newman wants the public housing unit to confront is the exemption of NYCHA residents from the right to have an inspector visit their apartment and potentially issue a violation of the housing maintenance code. NYCHA residents can still get an inspection, but a violation notice won't be issued, and violations are not publicly listed, she said.

"We really want that information to be public and for NYCHA residents to have the same rights that other tenants and residents in privately owned apartments have throughout New York City," she said.

Newman joined New York Legal Aid in 2005. Before working for the civil law reform unit, she was part of the organization's housing law unit.

"Legal Aid has been at the forefront of expanding, securing and protecting rights for our clients and their families who live in public housing and we are excited that Lucy will bring her NYCHA expertise to lead this new team," Adriene Holder, chief attorney of New York Legal Aid's civil practice, said in a statement. "We look forward to the work she and the team will contribute to our housing practice."

--Editing by Linda Voorhis. 

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