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For Tenants
For Landlords

About Us

We have been the best place to go for information about Housing Court for people without lawyers for over thirty years. Over the years, we have fought to reform the tenant screening process, establish a right to counsel and require the courts to post basic rights and responsibilities. We are the major voice in reforming the NYC Housing Courts. We were formerly known as City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court.


What We Do

Housing Court Answers educates and empowers NYC tenants and small homeowners through Information Tables and a hotline. We can explain Housing Court and  housing law, rent arrears assistance, and homeless prevention guidance. We also assist NYCHA tenants with an Informmation Table at 250 Broadway.

 

We also conduct trainings for community groups, unions, elected officials and others on Housing Court procedures, eviction prevention programs and housing law. And, last but most important, we fight every day for the rights of unrepresented people in Housing Court.


History

Housing Court Answers was founded in 1981 when a group of concerned advocates working at community based groups and legal service offices started two task forces to help tenants without lawyers in the Bronx and Brooklyn Housing Courts.
They got permission from the courts to set up card tables in the lobbies, and started providing information to all pro se litigants (see fighting for justice below), tenant or landlord. They gave out fact sheets and information to people and worked with court personnel to expand services to poor people. Through advocacy campaigns and research, Housing Court Answers convinced the court system to make access to justice for pro se litigants a priority.
The organization conducted a comprehensive study of Housing Court, called Five Minute Justice, in 1986 showing that the average case involving an unrepresented tenant was dealt with in about five minutes. Understanding that this was devastating for the thousands of tenants whose homes were at stake, the organization worked with others to file a class action lawsuit (Donaldson vs. the State of New York) to try and win the right to counsel for poor people in Housing Court. A study, the Donaldson Report, done in conjunction with the suit confirmed the tremendous imbalance – 88% of tenants in Housing Court could not afford attorneys while 97% of landlords were represented by counsel. Donaldson also showed that 66% of tenants were eligible for free legal assistance but most were unable to get it because of a lack of funding for legal providers.
Today the staff of Housing Court Answers works with pro se litigants – tenants and landlords – who arrive at Housing Court without attorneys, unable to afford them, and confused by the procedures. Our Information Table staff and our Hotline Specialists collaborate with community groups, legal services providers, eviction prevention specialists, academicians, and elected officials to further the goal of justice in Housing Court as a means to reducing homelessness in New York City.

Fighting For Justice

Pro se litigants: by now, you have figured out what this term means. Pro se is a Latin term that means “for himself” so these are men and women without attorneys to speak for them. Litigant is also from Latin and it means a person involved in a court case.

 

The example above is one of the MANY legal terms used in court that confuse people without lawyers. A lawyer’s job is to win a case for his or her client. Lawyers who are representing a landlord or tenant in a case are not trying to be fair, helpful or impartial – they are trying to WIN. So they benefit when you can’t understand the terms they use. And, in some ways, so does the court. If you don’t understand and don’t object, the court can move things along more smoothly (not so helpful for you, if you don’t have a lawyer).


Who We Are

Our staff is dedicated to helping unrepresented litigants navigate the court process.

Staff
Jenny Laurie
Executive Director
Jessica Hurd
Assistant Director
Mahkeddah Thompson
Housing Court Supervisor
Tianjiao Yu
Office Manager
Borough Coordinators
Fitzroy Christian
Bronx
Maritza Henriquez
Brooklyn
Gina Cuevas
Manhattan
Vacant

Queens
Ketty Toco
Staten Island
Borough Assistants
Fatoma Djabakatié
Bronx
Wilesca Belhomme
Brooklyn
Mercedes Medina
Harlem
Susan Slocum
Manhattan
Raquel Namuche
Queens
Carl Peterson
Queens
Genesis Aquino
NYCHA Coordinator
Beatriz Badru
NYCHA / Bronx Assistant
Kayla Schwarz
Navigator Program Coordinator
Emilia Santana and Glory Rosario
Hotline Coordinator
Board of Directors Executive Committee
President, Larry Wood
Goddard-Riverside Community Center
Vice President, Judith Goldiner
Legal Aid Society
Treasurer, Michael Williams
The Door
Secretary, Adriene Holder
Legal Aid Society
Board of Directors General Members
Marianne Brennick
Project Hospitality
Luis Henriquez Carrero
Brooklyn Legal Services
Ted Finkelstein
NYC Commission on Human Rights
Cathy Grad
Grad & Weinraub
Richard Munroe
Seaman’s Society for Children and Families
Lucy Newman
The Legal Aid Society
Sateesh Nori
The Legal Aid Society
Shali Sharma
Bronx Works
Jennifer Vallone
University Settlement