City Limits: New York Now Has ‘Right to Counsel,’ but Tenant Organizing Still Matters

Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photog
A tenant advocate cheers the new Right to Counsel policy at the bill signing in 2017. While in its earliest stages of implementation, the RTC policy is one that could be adopted in other cities where displacement is a concern.

By Susanna Blankley
November 17, 2018

Summary: A year ago, the tenant movement won a hard fought three-year campaign in New York City to make it the first city in the nation to make eviction defense a right. Tenants decided to launch a campaign because housing court has been weaponized: Evictions are a tool of displacement in targeted investment strategies, and a main deterrent to organizing.

We also understood right to counsel (or RTC) as a racial and economic justice struggle. Right to counsel stops evictions, but it also creates space to organize and build tenant power to win bigger and bolder demands. It moves tenants who are in danger of leaving our city to the center. At its core it’s about building tenant power in our city.

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