Claiming Newark is discriminating against the homeless, New York City exclusively told NY1 on Friday that it planned to countersue Newark for its efforts to block New York's controversial program that sends homeless families outside the five boroughs for housing.

"If you or I were moving to Newark, Courtney, we wouldn't have to tell the government how we're going to pay our rent when our lease ends, we wouldn't have to tell the government how we're paying our rent, and we wouldn't be prohibited if we wanted to pay our rent upfront in order to secure the apartment in a very tight rental market," New York City Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said. "But Newark's passed an ordinance that treats our clients differently."

Banks argued Newark was engaging in income discrimination by trying to block New York's program.

The city was poised to file the counter lawsuit Friday night.

Democratic Newark Mayor Ras Baraka sued the city last week, claiming the program, known as Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA), puts a burden on his community.

The program sends homeless families to communities across the country to get stable housing, often in neighborhoods cheaper than in the five boroughs. The city pays a full year of rent up front and is supposed to inspect apartments to make sure they are in good condition.

At issue for New York City: an ordinance that the Newark Council approved last month prohibiting landlords from accepting a full year's worth of rent from a tenant receiving subsidies.  That effectively targets the city's program.

Critics say the upfront payment allows landlords to check out. Families have told NY1 it's leaving them in bad or dangerous conditions:


The city on Monday agreed to temporarily stop sending homeless families to Newark after the New Jersey city's mayor sued, but the remedy was only temporary.

That lawsuit continues, although a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that Newark's motion for a temporary restraining was withdrawn by a court order.

The lawsuit and a city watchdog investigation last week found families are put in substandard housing, with vermin and no heat:


Sources said the city and Newark agreed Monday to conduct inspections of the apartments, and, once a confidentiality agreement was in place, release the release names and addresses of where New York has sent the families over the years. The relocation addresses have been points of contentions for Newark officials, who say they do not know where the families are going and therefore cannot ascertain the conditions they are living in.

1,198 families have been sent to Newark since SOTA's inception. The city says 35 have been sent to Elizabeth.

Last week, the Union County Board of Freeholders also passed a resolution urging the New Jersey state attorney general to get involved and help put a stop to the program.

New York's countersuit follows up on its ultimatum: de Blasio said New York City intended to file a formal challenge to the ordinance Friday if the cities could not come to an agreement.

Banks told NY1 that two individuals who want to move to Newark and are eligible for the program would submit sworn affidavits as part of the court filing Friday challenging the Newark ordinance.

Earlier this week, we asked Newark Assistant Corporation Counsel Gary Lipshutz whether he thought the Newark's new ordinance could stand up in court.

"Even if the ordinance had a problem, that still doesn't affect the claims we've have made here against the SOTA lawsuit to begin with. That still doesn't address the problems with the program, the issues with the inspections, the pre-payment of rent," Lipshutz said. "Those issues exist whether or not we have an ordinance."

Newark City Hall did not respond to a request for comment about the city's new claim.

Chris Bollwage, the Democratic mayor of Elizabeth, New Jersey, told NY1 last week that he was joining Newark's lawsuit. There is no confirmation as of this writing that Elizabeth will drop its lawsuit or that the city will stop sending homeless families to that city.

De Blasio has defended the SOTA program.

"My objection to what Newark has done is they are demonizing the poor," he said on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday. "If there literally are not enough apartments to turn to — no matter how many we keep building, there's just not enough — and it's a right now program…we look to the region."


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