Officials in Newark are suing New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio in an attempt to shut down a program that relocates homeless families from the Big Apple to New Jersey.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in New Jersey federal court, accuses the City of shipping its most vulnerable residents across the East River — and then dumping them in squalid and inhumane conditions.
“Newark is concerned about the living conditions of perhaps one thousand or more SOTA recipients,” reads the complaint, referencing the special one-time assistance program that sends homeless NYC families across the country with a year’s worth of rent. “From the small sample of SOTA recipients that Newark was able to identify, Newark has become aware of families, including those with infants, that are living in uninhabitable conditions.”
“This includes issues with lack of heat, electricity, excessive vermin, and dangerous living conditions,” the court papers read. “When temperatures drop, families have to use dangerous space heaters to stay warm. At times, temperatures have dropped so low that water freezes and pipes break.”
The filing goes on to say that some of the families have even tried reaching back out to NYC for help, to no avail — meaning they must turn to Newark.
“Some of the SOTA recipients have attempted to address their unbearable living conditions by contacting Defendants,” the suit says. “Families were told that Defendants either cannot or will not help because they are residents of Newark now. It is, apparently, no longer the Defendants’ concern. Having nowhere to turn and unable to hold the landlords accountable, families have contacted the Newark for help.”
The lawsuit, which names de Blasio and Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, is accusing the City of violating interstate commerce rules, and is asking a judge to block the practice.
Mayor de Blasio was asked about the suit Monday night on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.”
Hizzoner didn’t directly address the lawsuit, but he said he’s spoken to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka about the program.
“I believe, and I thought we were trying to work toward common sense solutions, and I still want to work toward common solutions. That’s my attitude,” de Blasio said.
“The point is here, human need is human need. We want to help people back on their feet. And that’s the whole origin of this program, is where is a place that someone can actually get a decent place to live. We will help them.”
The suit comes after Newark passed its own law making the practice illegal, and barring landlords from accepting more than a month’s worth of subsidized rent.
The city’s Law Department did not immediately return a request for comment.