By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - A state appeals court has
rejected New York's controversial new eligibility requirements
for its homeless shelters, the latest chapter in a decades-long
legal battle over the city's homeless policies.
In a one-sentence order Thursday, the Appellate Division,
First Department, affirmed a 2012 decision from Manhattan
Supreme Court Justice Judith Gische, who found that the city
illegally bypassed a public hearing and other vetting steps in
implementing the new policy.
The city's corporation counsel, Michael Cardozo, said in a
statement that the city was considering its legal options.
"The Department of Homeless Services' efforts to properly
determine individuals' eligibility are rational, important steps
to fulfilling its core mandate," Cardozo said.
In November 2011, the city approved a new application
process requiring individual homeless men and women seeking a
bed to prove they had nowhere else to stay.
City council members, including speaker Christine Quinn, who
is a 2013 mayoral candidate, said the policy would end up
forcing thousands to remain on the streets.
Both the Legal Aid Society and the city council filed
lawsuits challenging the new procedure. The case was the first
lawsuit brought against Mayor Michael Bloomberg by the city
council since Quinn became speaker in 2006.
"Our city's homeless people need to be helped - not hindered
- in their efforts to locate shelter," said Quinn and
Councilwoman Annabel Palma in a joint statement Thursday.
The policy, intended to reduce the number of applicants, was
similar to the one in effect for years for homeless families.
City officials had estimated that the change would save $4
million a year.
The city's homeless services commissioner, Seth Diamond,
noted in a statement that the decision did not address the
substantive merits of the requirement and warned that the ruling
would force the city to build more shelters.
The Legal Aid Society said the new policy would effectively
turn away at least 10 percent of the 20,000 homeless men and
women who pass through New York's homeless shelters every year.
"The simplicity of the unanimous ruling today upholding the
trial court should be a clear message that the city should
abandon this misguided effort and not pursue any further
appeals," Steven Banks, the society's top attorney, said in an
Over the years, Legal Aid and other advocates have
frequently clashed with the city in court over its homeless
The case is In the Matter of the Application of The Council
of the City of New York v. The Department of Homeless Services
of the City of New York, Appellate Division, First Department,
For the council: Elizabeth Fine.
For the Legal Aid Society: Steven Banks.
For the city: Ronald Sternberg of the New York City Law
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