New York City Temporarily Halts Evictions as Coronavirus Spreads Throughout State

Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio along with city officials hold a press conference to provide updates on the city's COVID-19 coronavirus response at One Police Plaza, Manhattan, New York City, New York, March 5, 2020. EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty

New York City housing courts will not effectuate any evictions for one week beginning on Monday, according to a notice posted on the court system's website.

In an internal memo to court system personnel authored by Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks, measures were outlined detailing how New York courts plan on coping with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"Effective immediately, we have imposed a one-week moratorium on evictions in New York City, subject to further extension upon review," Marks wrote Friday in the bulletin, which was obtained by the non-profit news outlet The City. "Simultaneously, we are directing that, until further notice, the New York City House Court decline to issue new eviction warrants when a party has not appeared in court."

In 2019, there were 16,996 residential evictions and possessions—when a tenant's belongings remain on the premises—in New York City, according to official statistics compiled by the court. This is approximately the same number as the year prior.

The Legal Aid Society in New York City reacted critically to the move, releasing a letter urging the mayor, the governor and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to halt all evictions until the state of emergency has expired.

"We understand that there is a one week moratorium on evictions in New York City," the group wrote. "However, one week is simply insufficient."

On Friday, a coalition of the largest landlords in the city announced a voluntary pledge "not to execute" any warrant of eviction over the next 90 days, "unless it is for criminal or negligent behavior that jeopardizes the life, health or safety of other residents."

"With all the stress, health risk and economic suffering going on now, no one should have to worry about losing their place to live during this crisis," the landlords, in conjunction with the Real Estate Board of New York, a trade group, wrote.

Together, the pledge was signed by a coalition representing more than 150,000 rental units in the city, including the firm Tishman Speyer and The Durst Organization.

New York now has 524 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which has recently resulted in its first death, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.

On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in New York City, directing emergency and health departments to take "all appropriate and necessary steps" to safeguard public health. One week earlier, Cuomo issued an emergency declaration covering the entire state.

This week, New York lawmakers announced new legislation that would impose a moratorium on evictions during declarations of emergency. The measures that were later taken by the courts and the real estate board are either temporary or voluntary.

"No one should ever be put at risk & forced to look for shelter during a public health emergency," state Senator Brad Hoylman, a co-sponsor of the measure, wrote on Twitter.

Marks' order also served to scale down the court system's caseload. Starting on Monday, civil jury trials that have not yet begun will be postponed, and no new criminal jury trials will be allowed to begin.

Other jurisdictions have taken similar steps to protect tenants during the outbreak. In Miami-Dade County, for example, the police department announced it has "temporarily suspended all eviction activities until further notice."

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez declared a state of emergency this week. The mayor of the City of Miami, Francis Suarez, said he tested positive for the disease.