NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Newark officials are speaking out about the city’s lawsuit against New York City over the controversial program that exports homeless families.

For nearly a year, CBS2 has been covering the Forgotten Families who say they were pressured by New York City to leave and move into unlivable homes.

A mice-infested, mold-covered home with no heat in Newark is where we first met former Brooklyn resident Julie Rodriguez and her young family in February. She’s one of the several we profiled, relocated from a New York City shelter into a home in New Jersey where the city paid the landlord one year’s rent upfront.

“I hope we will get justice because it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is one of five former New Yorkers whose stories are cited in a federal lawsuit filed Monday by Newark, New Jersey, against New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Homeless Services Commissioner Steve Banks.

DOCUMENT 1: Verified Complaint December 1 2019

DOCUMENT 2: Brief in Support of Order to Show Cause

It asks a judge to stop the Special One-Time Assistance Program, or SOTA, immediately. Newark’s legal team says they’ve been in talks with New York officials since February.

“We were under impression they would hold off on the program, right? Because at that point I think it was like 800 or so families. Hold off on the program, continue to talk to us, come to a common ground. You don’t send us any information and we learn that there’s an additional 300-400 families in Newark since we started,” corporation counsel Kenyatta Stewart told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.

There’s now almost 1,200 families in Newark, which could potentially double its homeless population.

Monday night, de Blasio said, “I thought we were all trying to work towards common solutions.”

CBS2 has repeatedly asked New York City how it will continue to operate the program in Newark, but Tuesday afternoon, a de Blasio spokesperson criticized the lawsuit and told us his administration made “countless efforts” to discuss unscrupulous landlords.

The lawsuit would force New York to disclose who the landlords are and where recipients are placed. That way housing inspectors can vet the units and offer support.

CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters says if a judge rules in Newark’s favor, it could end the program.

“Once it’s banned in Newark, it’s confunctionally banned everywhere,” he said.

Now, a judge will decide.

A spokesperson for de Blasio says the city of Newark has “taken a page from the Trump playbook, building a wall to single out and prevent families from seeking housing where they want to live.”

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says he’s choosing not to comment for now, saying he and de Blasio are planning to meet.


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