Brookfield, Lefrak Claim NY Rental Assistance Program Is Unconstitutional: Lawsuit – Commercial Observer

Brookfield, Lefrak Claim NY Rental Assistance Program Is Unconstitutional: Lawsuit – Commercial Observer

Brookfield Properties and LeFrak are taking aim at New York’s pandemic-era program to help residents who couldn’t pay rent, calling the initiative unconstitutional in two separate lawsuits filed Thursday in New York County Supreme Court.

The landlords alleged that the measure, dubbed the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), let some of their tenants not pay rent for more than a year while they waited for ERAP’s administrator, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), to determine whether residents would get state dollars to cover unpaid back rent.

Both landlords claimed ERAP is unconstitutional, a violation of their rights and an overstep of OTDA’s authority because it automatically pauses eviction cases once a tenant applies to the program. The landlords want nonpayment cases to continue no matter what, according to the two lawsuits.

LeFrak, his lawyers and a spokesperson for the OTDA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Brookfield declined to comment. PincusCo first reported news of the lawsuits.

In its case, Lefrak alleged that 22 of its tenants across 15 Queens buildings owe nearly $536,000 in back rent, and some haven’t paid their bills for more than a year thanks to the slow ERAP decisions. Brookfield claimed two residents in its luxury Greenpoint, Brooklyn, apartment building at Two Blue Slip racked up arrears of more than $150,000 over a lease they signed in August 2020.

Brookfield and Lefrak aren’t the first owners to complain about the program. A group of Long Island landlords protested ERAP in Manhattan in Octoberblaming ERAP for being unable to evict their tenants, Huntington Now reported.

ERAP was plagued with delays when it first rolled out in June 2021, distributing relief dollars at a snail’s space and then running out of cash October. Goal Gov. Kathy Hochul replenished its pot with $800 million through the 2023 state budget that passed in April.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.

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