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NYC landlords pledge to halt evictions for three months amid coronavirus outbreak

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“No one knows how bad the impact of the COVID-19 virus will be”

Landlord Blackstone, which owns Stuyvesant Town on Manhattan’s east side, is one of 29 building owners and managers who have pledged to stay evictions for 90 days.
Max Touhey

Update: On March 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants, meaning no one can be evicted in New York state until at least June 20th. If you have questions about New York’s eviction moratorium, read our explainer for the latest on what this means for renters.

A coalition of major New York City landlords has pledged not to execute eviction warrants for the next three months as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the city.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and 29 building owners and mangers committed to a 90-day moratorium on issuing housing removals—unless for “criminal or negligent behavior”—in response to the five boroughs’ outbreak of COVID-19.

“No one knows how bad the impact of the COVID-19 virus will be,” REBNY Chairman William Rudin and President James Whelan jointly wrote in an open letter to New Yorkers. “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.”

Those who made the voluntary pledge, which is not enforceable by city or state officials, collectively own and operate more than 150,000 rental apartments in New York City, according to Rudin and Whelan. The list includes many of the city’s high-powered real estate players, such as Extell Development, Blackstone, LeFrak, Tishman Speyer, Two Trees, and The Durst Organization.

Friday afternoon’s unexpected announcement came amid intensifying calls for a state-wide moratorium on evictions—tenant advocates, housing organizers, and a slew of lawmakers are pushing for the measure—and only hours after the state’s New York Office of Court Administration announced it is halting housing removals for one week.

“Effective immediately, we have imposed a one-week moratorium on evictions in New York City, subject to further extension upon review,” Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks wrote in a Friday memo. “Simultaneously, we are directing that until further notice, the New York City Housing Court decline to issue new eviction warrants when a party has not appeared in court.”

Other U.S. cities have also moved to limit evictions in recent days. Officials in San Jose, California are enacting a moratorium of at least 30 days for those who can document their inability to pay rent due to a coronavirus-related loss of income. Police in Miami, Florida announced on Thursday that officers will not assist with eviction proceedings during the emergency declared there by Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

As of Thursday, the New York City Housing Authority has issued a temporary moratorium on evictions for those living in public housing. Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a recent press conference that he wants to “freeze up evictions as much as humanly possible” and offered support through the city’s Human Resources Administration to those faced with the looming prospect of eviction.

But that’s not enough for more than 100 housing and tenant groups who, in an open letter to the mayor, urged de Blasio to push for the city’s housing courts to close.

“If more New Yorkers are evicted in the coming days and weeks, COVID-19 could start to spread more rapidly among those who become homeless,” the coalition wrote in a statement. “We cannot let that nightmare become a reality.”