NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For months, CBS2 has been chronicling the saga of the forgotten families in New Jersey.

On Sunday, the mayor of Newark commented for the first time since the city filed a lawsuit against New York City to end the Special One-Time Assistance or SOTA program.

In a statement, Ras Baraka said:

“We have been trying for almost a year to come to workable agreement. New York officials have not yet provided us with a list of their SOTA recipients or the addresses in which they were placed. With New York paying one year of rent up front, it left some of the SOTA recipients at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who, once they had the money, would let the properties lapse. 

“We respect the dignity of all of our homeless. We are about to introduce a comprehensive program that includes ways to more safely feed and house them, and provide more efficient mental health and social services, as well as offering substance abuse treatment.

“We have about 2,000 homeless people in our city, who come from all over New Jersey, New York and other states. New York has sent us an additional 1,172 families with no safety net beyond their one-year rental assistance, or any provision for them to return to New York if they desired. This has the potential to double our homeless population, and tax our resources to the point where we may not be able to serve these people.

“In the end, this is about the dignity of the homeless. We want to make sure they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. We want to make sure we can provide them the necessary social and educational services. But we can’t do that if New York does not share information on who and where they are, which is not only disrespectful to our local laws but the people they are claiming to help.”

(Graphic: CBS2)

Many of the SOTA recipients say they were moved into homes with deplorable conditions and no heat or hot water.

Mayor Baraka said with New York paying one year of rent up front, it left the families at the mercy of the landlords.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was surprised by the lawsuit, adding that he thought the two cites were working together.

Elizabeth, N.J. is also joining the lawsuit.

Union County leaders are also asking New Jersey’s attorney general to help stop the program.

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