ICE Arrests Man Inside Staten Island Courthouse, Sparking Legal Aid Walkout

A group of lawyers from the Staten Island Legal Aid Society held a walkout Tuesday afternoon after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained a man inside the courthouse.

This is the first time ICE has arrested someone inside state Supreme Court in St. George, although there was another incident where a man was apprehended by the library across the street from the courthouse, said Legal Aid lawyer Gillian Kress, who is the Staten Island union vice president.

"This is not about the immigration process, it is about due process," Kress said. "Our due process rights are not contingent on whether or not a person is a citizen. ICE's presence in the courthouse is having a chilling effect on people being able to come to court due to fear of detention."

In Tuesday's incident, Kress said the man's misdemeanor case was dismissed before officers arrested him in the hallway outside Criminal Court.

The defendant, Gabriel Garcia-Mejia, had been charged with misdemeanor assault, according to Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration.

ICE arrested Garcia-Mejia after a Brooklyn federal magistrate signed a criminal warrant for Mejia for illegal re-entry into the Unites States, Chalfen said.

"It had nothing to do with his state case," Chalfen added.

The group of 20 lawyers held signs and chanted, "Hell no, ICE must go" and "ICE free NYC."

They marched outside the courthouse for about an hour.

The protest did not interfere with the afternoon court calendar as Legal Aid supervisors were covering those cases.

"Our courthouses are safe places for people to go and resolve disputes and to face criminal charges" Kress said. "ICE lying in wait and using this safe space encourages people to not use our justice system and resolve disputes in other ways. There are other ways and places for ICE to detain people and enforce our immigration laws, it just should not be in our halls of justice."


Legal Aid Society Expands Specialized Bail Initiative to Service all Five Boroughs After Successful Manhattan Pilot, MOCJ Fully Funds Citywide Expansion

The Legal Aid Society and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) announced funding today that will expand the Society’s specialized pre-trial detention work – through its Decarceration Project - to service New Yorkers in all five boroughs.

The Society formed the Decarceration Project in June 2016 to reduce and eventually eliminate the unnecessary incarceration of anyone due to inability to pay bail.

Since its inception, the Decarceration Project has been helping Society clients challenge unfair bail and navigate the complexities of the broken money bail system. The Project is the first of its kind nationwide, and it aims to shift how public defenders confront pretrial detention through direct litigation, and driving systemic change with education and legislative advocacy.

In March 2017, Decarceration Project staff designed an innovative model for litigation to directly aid Society clients and staff attorneys while fueling systemic change. The idea was simple: if bail means clients are 34% more likely to be convicted, scarce resources must be relocated to the earliest point in the clients' case to focus on getting clients released and back to the community.

As a pilot, the Decarceration Project provided bail specialists — attorneys, social workers, and support staff —to a group of thirty attorneys at Legal Aid’s Manhattan trial office to see if the increased litigation capacity could secure clients release and drive down detention rates.

Some of the pilot’s major successes include:

  • Over 140 clients were serviced during the Pilot.
  • Almost half were released on their own recognizance and ultimately able to post bail or have bail posted by a bail fund, or saw their case dismissed.
  • The pilot brought legal challenges to excessive bail sets for 60 clients which resulted in the release of 20 of those clients, or 33 percent went home - they either were released or had bail lowered to an amount that their families could afford.
  • A designated social worker was involved in 65 clients’ cases, 37% of whom were released.

Specifically, the $860,000 in funding will support the hiring of five attorneys and a supervising attorney to handle bail cases in all five boroughs. Services include bail reviews, bail applications, writs of habeas corpus and appeals. Social services are also part of the program and include connecting clients with family and other community ties, personal history reviews, matching clients with supportive programming and referring cases to bail funds (charities that post bail for people charged with misdemeanors where bail is $2,000 or less).

“By having a dedicated team of attorneys, social workers and paralegals focusing all their efforts and resources on getting people released from pretrial incarceration, the Decarceration Project has changed lives,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Our judicial system is centered on the presumption of innocence and we are fighting to make sure that this bedrock principle is guaranteed to everyone, not just the those who can afford their freedom.  We look forward to expanding these services citywide to benefit our clients and their families.”

“Public defenders fight tirelessly to make our criminal justice system fairer and more just. I applaud the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Legal Aid Society. Boosting resources for defenders is crucial if we are to realize the dream of closing Rikers and ending the abuse and neglect that it symbolizes,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundation. 

Legal Aid Society Statement on Citywide Staff Walkout Protesting ICE Courthouse Arrests


The Legal Aid Society released the following statement today in response to The Legal Aid staff protesting the arrest of another client by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) earlier in Queens: 

“Today’s arrest perfectly illustrates the unprecedented perils posed to our criminal justice system by ICE’s continued presence in courthouses. Our client – who had no prior record – was simply obeying the rules by appearing on his case. ICE waited until the 1:00 pm Court lunch break, followed our client and his family out of the Court, and arrested him near our office as he was buying a cup of coffee, and waiting to return to Court once lunch was over. This sends an unmistakable message to all noncitizens that exercising your constitutional right to appear in court and fight the charges against you carries incredible risks and disastrous consequences. We stand in solidarity with our staff who are protesting the continued attack on our immigrant clients; and we once again call on New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to take steps to address this crisis immediately.”

DNA Newsletter | April 2018

 April 2018

April 2018

Forensics in the News

The California Supreme Court has issued a decision in P v. Buza, ruling that the state’s controversial DNA arrestee law did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights. Enacted in 2004, California’s Proposition 69 allows law enforcement to take DNA from anyone arrested on suspicion of felony and enter them into the state’s DNA database. To date, there are tens of thousands of DNA samples stored in the state database that were collected from people arrested, but never charged or convicted of a felony. (Los Angeles Times)

Legal Aid Society Statement on Latest Nunez Independent Monitor Report on Abuse in New York City Jails

Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society, released the below statement today responding to a report from Steve J. Martin, independent federal court-appointed Monitor in Nunez v. City of New York et. al., concerning misuse of force in New York City jails. The independent Monitor was appointed by the Court after Legal Aid, private firms and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York settled a lawsuit against the City demanding that the Department of Correction meaningfully address the scourge of excessive force that has long been entrenched in Rikers Island and other City jails:

“New York City appears unable to reduce the rampant misuse of force in its jails, despite two and a half years under a federal consent decree mandating reform. The patterns of misuse of force continue: illegal head strikes, misuse of chemical agents, and staff provocation and escalation of conflicts that should never amount to force.

At this point, there is no excuse for the City’s longstanding failure to hold supervisory staff -- wardens, deputy wardens and captains -- responsible for the misuse of force, unprofessionalism, and inept and biased investigations on their watches. If the Department does not demand competence from its supervisors, and replace those who have shown they cannot meet the task with competent leadership, it will not change the culture of violence in this Department.

Most urgently, the abysmal facts depicted in the Report highlight the challenges the City leadership must tackle head-on as it moves the youngest people off Rikers to an adolescent-only facility, as required by the Raise the Age legislation passed in Albany last year. DOC staff will still run the teenagers’ housing units in their new facility, just as they do now at Rikers. But DOC has yet show a substantial or sustained decrease in the rate of violence against, and among, these teenagers.

It is imperative that City leadership treat this violence as the public health crisis that it is, and act immediately to prevent this crisis from being exported from Rikers to the new adolescent facilities.”


    A Rule Is Changed for Young Immigrants, and Green Card Hopes Fade

     Mark Abramson | The New York Times    The New York Times  | A Rule Is Changed for Young Immigrants, and Green Card Hopes Fade By Liz Robbins April 18, 2018

    Mark Abramson | The New York Times

    The New York Times | A Rule Is Changed for Young Immigrants, and Green Card Hopes Fade
    By Liz Robbins
    April 18, 2018

    As a child, Y. says she was beaten by her father with ropes and cables in Honduras.

    J. says he was forced into labor in Burkina Faso.

    R., who was born in the Dominican Republic, says she was neglected by her mother and abandoned by her father.

    All three applied for something known in immigration law as Special Immigrant Juvenile status, which lets children under the age of 21 who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one or both parents obtain a green card. But in the last several weeks, all three, living in New York, were denied because of an unannounced policy reversal by the Trump administration.

    Under the new interpretation, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that applicants in New York who were over 18, but not yet 21, when they began the application process no longer qualify.

    “Nothing in the federal statutes has changed; only the interpretation has changed,” Beth Krause, the supervising attorney for the Immigrant Youth Project at The Legal Aid Society of New York, said. “And now, U.S.C.I.S. is interpreting this in a way to cut out a very large portion of kids who, until the past couple of weeks, had gotten these grants under the same facts.”

    “It’s a bad faith argument,” said Rebecca McBride, a lawyer at Atlas: DIY, a nonprofit organization helping immigrant youth in Brooklyn, who represents several people with special immigrant status.

    The immigration agency declined to explain the change, saying in an email response, “A petitioner must submit a court order issued by a juvenile court that contains specific determinations made under relevant state law.” It referred to a policy manual rewritten in October 2016.

    Consider the case of J., a shy young man, now 22, from Burkina Faso. He went to family court in New York in late 2016 when he was 20, and the court granted him an order that enabled him to apply to the immigration agency. He received two requests for more information before being denied because of his age several weeks ago.

    “At the moment of application, if they had this issue about 18 years old, why would they allow me to continue this if that’s what they thought?” J. said, in French, with his lawyer at The Door. “Why would they let this whole family court thing happen? Why would they allow this to advance to this point and now decide?”

    He and other young immigrants interviewed asked to be identified only by their first initial or first name because of fear of repercussions from the government.

    J.’s lawyer at The Door is appealing the denial.

    Y., another client of The Door, came to the United States in August 2016, and at the end of that year, when she was 20, obtained a special findings order from the New York family court. She said she had also been threatened with rape by a gang in Honduras because she was a lesbian. That would seem, her lawyer said, to make it “in the best interests of the child” not to send her back — another part of the law.

    Y. was denied, but her younger brother, A., who had come to the United States in 2015 and also applied when he was over 18, was approved in January 2017.

    “The government wants to pick and choose who is and isn’t a child, but in fact it’s a matter of law,” Ms. Stotland said.

    Legal organizations say they first started seeing signs that the government was holding up the special immigrant applications in the later years of the Obama administration, but the trend became more pronounced in the spring of 2017, when the agency started asking for more information about applications.

    Romain, 23, was 4 years old when his parents were murdered in Congo, in the house where he was sleeping. His uncle took him to Burkina Faso, and 14 years later sent him to the United States to study. Then the uncle cut all ties with him, Romain says, leaving him in New York, alone, broke and homeless.

    Romain came on a student visa, but without money to pay for college, it lapsed. He landed in a homeless shelter for boys.

    In 2015, when Romain was 20, he applied for special immigrant status with the help of Ms. McBride at Atlas: DIY. A family court in Brooklyn found that he fit the criteria that year, but upon further review, the federal immigration agency caught a discrepancy they believed was fraud. Romain’s uncle had filled out his student visa application incorrectly, saying the young man’s parents were alive, so the application was initially denied.

    That complicated the appeal process, but Ms. McBride and Romain persisted, finding sufficient evidence of his parents’ death, which the government eventually believed. But in Spring 2017, Ms. McBride said, the agency said that death was not akin to abandonment. And, finally, this winter, the agency added the over-18 stipulation to its notice of intent to deny Romain’s application. She submitted an appeal, and they are waiting.

    “I am extremely frustrated, I’m confused,” Romain said, “but I am always thinking that if the interpretation of those rules can be changed today, the same interpretation can be changed tomorrow — for the better.”

    For the last 10 years, cases like theirs have routinely been approved. But as the Trump administration tries to stop the flow of unaccompanied minors at the Mexico-United States border, it appears to be targeting the special immigrant status; President Trump often invokes fear that these immigrants could belong to MS-13, the transnational gang, and that they are committing fraud in their applications.

    “They are looking for what he calls ‘loopholes,’ and what we call protections, and trying to close them,” said Wendy Young, the executive director of Kids In Need of Defense, a nonprofit organization that represents young immigrants who come to the country unaccompanied. “Under this administration, everybody is presenting a fraudulent claim, rather than, ‘Why is this child here and do they need protection?’”

    So far, at least 81 applicants from the New York City area have been denied or were told they would soon be denied by the immigration agency, according to The Legal Aid Society of New York. In total, more than 1,000 young people across the state, not all of them from Central America, could be affected.

    Although there are other states that follow a process similar to New York’s, including California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, lawyers believe that New York has seen the most denials.

    In the last week, The Legal Aid Society said, the immigration agency has also sent a handful of notices to New York-area clients saying they were going to revoke applications that had previously been approved.

    “When do immigrants get to rely on decisions from U.S.C.I.S.?” asked Eve Stotland, the legal director for The Door, an organization that works with disadvantaged youth in New York. “What if the client is naturalized? You spin into a place of arbitrariness and absurdity, and a failure to follow the rule of law.”

    Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the agency, said: “U.S.C.I.S. has not issued any new guidance or policy directives regarding the adjudication of S.I.J. petitions. We remain committed to adjudicating each petition individually based on the merits of the case and safeguarding the integrity of our lawful immigration system.”

    The federal law establishing Special Immigrant Juvenile status was first enacted as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 and then expanded in 2008. To obtain it, applicants must first have a ruling from their state’s juvenile court, finding that they have been abused, abandoned or neglected. A judge must also declare the young person dependent on the court, or appoint a caretaker. In the second part of the process, the applicant submits the judge’s order to the immigration agency.

    The Trump administration seems to be narrowly reinterpreting the law, saying that in cases where applicants are over 18, they no longer qualify, because the state court’s authority ends at that age. According to its reasoning in one denial letter provided to The Times, “once a person attains the age of 18, the family courts lack jurisdiction over the person’s custody.”

    Those over 18 can be appointed guardians, however, which the immigration agency now does not consider the same as custody. Lawyers say that’s semantics, since in state law, guardianship and custody have equal rights and responsibilities.

    Legal Aid Launches Website To Help New Yorkers Foil NYPD Gang Database

    The Legal Aid Society launched a website today to streamline the process for New Yorkers to submit a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to determine if they have been labeled by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as a gang affiliate. This website bolsters Legal Aid’s current  “FOIL Yourself” campaign, which was announced earlier this year in partnership with other advocacy groups.

    By means of this website, the general public can input personal information which will automatically generate an official FOIL request. Legal Aid will then mail these requests directly to the NYPD. The website is accessible here:

    These requests will continue to seek the following information:

    • All records related to the person submitting the request;
    • Whether or not the person was included in the gang database;
    • Information about how the person’s records were used, shared, stored, maintained or destroyed

     “The NYPD’s gang database is black-box of secrecy in desperate need of sunlight,” said Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney of the Community Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “This website will complement our current efforts to help New Yorkers – especially those from communities of color – determine if they have been caught in the NYPD’s gang labeling dragnet. New Yorkers need honesty and transparency from the Department on this opaque and clandestine process.”

    Currently, law enforcement maintains and shares databases alleging gang affiliations of individuals who are not notified or given the opportunity to challenge such designations. Information is collected on adults and juveniles (as young as 12 and perhaps younger) alike. Individuals are added to the databases, not based on criminal conduct but based on area of residence, association and appearance.

    Like the stop and frisk strategies that the NYPD relied upon in the recent past, the databases are likely to be over inclusive and inaccurate. Unlike the stop and frisk records, the databases are secret, do not require even a suspicion of criminality, and are not subject to Fourth Amendment protection and judicial review.

    Gang databases are a key piece of a broader gang policing agenda that has intensified over the past few years. The NYPD's regular use of militarized "gang" raids targets Black and Latino residents across the city. Last year, the police department and multiple federal agencies launched the city's biggest "gang" raid ever in the Bronx, leading to the indictment of 120 people. The pre-dawn operation broke the record for biggest gang sweep ever set by a controversial 2014 raid in West Harlem.


    Staff Highlight: Anthony Posada

    The Community Justice Unit was founded to help provide essential legal services to members of “Cure Violence” Programs, New York City’s approach to curbing gun violence. Originally intended to provide legal services to help New Yorkers deemed at-risk of becoming victims of gun violence, CJU has grown considerably in the last several years. As part of the “Cure Violence” movement, where gun violence is viewed as a public safety issue, CJU has offered proactive outreach and robust legal services to under served communities. As organizations within the movement continue to protect communities from gun violence, CJU has played an active role in supporting this important mission.

    Stop shooting button.png

    CJU’s proactive outreach offers a wide variety of legal and support services to communities that, as Anthony notes, have been “over-policed and are on the brink of poverty;  places where the government has not set foot in a very long time, or if they have, it’s been only as a police response.” As a result, the 10 staff members of CJU focus much of their efforts facilitating positive interactions between local community members and our city’s justice system. In addition to providing Know Your Rights events for immigrants, CJU helps New Yorkers with a seemingly endless list of legal tasks: educating youth groups on the school-to-prison pipeline, helping clients surrender themselves into police custody, advocating against NYPD’s secretive gang database, partnering with other units within the Society to seal clients’ conviction records, and everything in between. “There’s really no one area,” said Anthony with a laugh. “It’s all over the place.”


    And while the list will continue to grow for Anthony and the CJU team, there is no lack of inspiration. As Anthony sees it, CJU is just one facet of the incredible work happening every day at The Legal Aid Society. While other units and programs across the city are making important strides on pressing issues and working “on the cutting edge of law reform,” CJU puts itself in the middle so that they can successfully “pull in all the other units of Legal Aid” to offer clients the essential services they need.

    Lawyers Walk Out to Protest ICE, and Court Objects



    The New York Times | Lawyers Walk Out to Protest ICE, and Court Objects
    By Liz Robbins
    April 11, 2018

    Since last year, immigration agents have been making arrests far more frequently in New York City’s courthouses, sparking outrage from lawyers, district attorneys and activists.

    Their fight has been with the federal authorities. But now, a rift has erupted along local lines.

    It started when agents for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, detained two undocumented immigrants who had come to Queens Criminal Court on minor charges. In protest, lawyers for the Legal Aid Society of New York and Queens Law Associates staged a walkout, saying ICE should stay out of courthouses. It was the second such walkout this week, and the fifth in the last year.

    The Office of Court Administration, which oversees the courts in New York State, responded by fulfilling a warning it had made an hour earlier: if the public defenders walked out on the job while court was still in session, cases would be reassigned to private defense lawyers under contract to represent the poor. Ten cases were reassigned.

    The public defense organizations saw it as punishment for political advocacy; court administrators saw it as a matter of keeping the courts running.

    “We say, ‘By you doing what you did, you are disrupting operations,’” said Lucian Chalfen, the spokesman for the O.C.A. “We won’t have that. It helps no one.”

    Mr. Chalfen added: “Yesterday was the day that enough was enough.”

    Tuesday was the first time that the state judiciary had taken such a step, which was first reported by

    Directors for Legal Aid were infuriated by the court’s suggestion they were abandoning their clients, but agreed on one point: “‘Enough is enough’ — with ICE taking our clients,” said Justine Luongo, the chief of Legal Aid’s criminal defense practice, in an interview Wednesday.

    Ms. Luongo insisted several times that Legal Aid lawyers never left a court unattended to participate in the noon walkout; she said it drew between 50 and 70 people, including many staff members who had not been in court that morning. When a Legal Aid supervisor checked on the arraignment court before the 1 p.m. lunch break, there were no cases to be called, she said.

    The lawyers returned when court reconvened at 2:15 p.m.

    Legal Aid charged that court administrators deliberately, and deceptively, reassigned those cases during the lunch hour to retaliate against people taking a stand on the issue. Mr. Chalfen disputed that: “We’re not in the business of fooling them; we’re in the business of running courts,” he said. He suggested the lawyers protest outside of court hours.

    The public defenders are paid a salary and will not lose earnings because defendants were assigned to private lawyers. But Ms. Luongo said the decision had damaged Legal Aid’s reputation.

    “None of us want to feel like we’re fighting both the federal government and the state,” she said, adding that the defenders and O.C.A. have been discussing the issue for months.

    The public defenders say that courthouses should be treated as what are known as “sensitive locations,” like schools, hospitals and places of worship, where ICE agents generally do not enter. New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and other officials have also said that the courthouses should be off limits, and that immigration authorities were interfering with the criminal justice system, making witnesses and defendants afraid to appear in court.

    State policy prohibits ICE officers from making arrests inside courtrooms. They must do their work in a hallway or outside a building.

    ICE has said that it goes to courthouses in New York because security screening there makes it safer than trying to detain people in the community — which ICE says it is forced to do by a 2014 law that generally prohibits correction officers in city jails from holding undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes for ICE to detain.

    Courts are open to the public, and court administrators have no authority to bar ICE from them.

    The Immigrant Defense Project, a nonprofit organization that has been tracking arrests, said that ICE has arrested 24 people since January in or around city courthouses. The court administration’s figures show that ICE has made 26 appearances at city courts, arresting six people, including one in the Bronx that led to this week’s first protest.

    Legal Aid Demands Rebates for NYCHA Tenants Left in the Cold



    The New York Times | Legal Aid Demands Rebates for NYCHA Tenants Left in the Cold
    By Jeffrey C. Mays
    April 12, 2018

    It was so cold in January in A’seelah Diamond’s apartment at Fiorentino Plaza, a public housing development in East New York, that she, her husband and their three daughters all piled into one bed every night to keep warm.

    The radiators did not work, the carbon monoxide detector sounded an alarm when the family turned the oven on for heat, and if they tried to run more than one space heater at a time, the electricity would shut off.

    “The cold was unbearable,” Ms. Diamond said. “My daughters would bring the blankets from their rooms and everyone would be in the bed like a big burrito.”

    During a New York City winter with the most days below freezing since 1961, Ms. Diamond, 31, put in at least 10 requests to repair the heat and hot water with her landlord, the New York City Housing Authority, to no avail, she said. On Jan. 4 when the temperature outside was 19 degrees, her apartment had no heat or hot water, according to the court papers.

    Tenants such as Ms. Diamond and her husband, Tyrone, 30, who pay $1,282 a month in rent, deserve a refund, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by The Legal Aid Society. The class-action lawsuit comes after the authority refused a demand from Legal Aid to abate from $2.5 million to $15 million in rent to tenants who were left without basic services during heating season.

    “The law is very clear, it requires they provide heat at a certain level, and if they don’t, they are subject to a claim,” said Jennifer Levy, supervising attorney for Legal Aid’s civil reform unit.

    The lawsuit comes at a time when the housing authority is under intense scrutiny. Chairwoman Shola Olatoye announced her resignation Tuesday. A group representing tenants has filed a lawsuit against the authority and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently declared a state of emergency at NYCHA and appointed a special manager to oversee emergency repairs such as replacing the boilers and removing lead and mold.

    The potential rebate that Legal Aid is seeking is based on the length of the outages and the average monthly rent of $509, or $17 per day, that NYCHA tenants pay. But Jasmine Blake, a spokeswoman for the authority, said the agency is focusing its resources elsewhere.

    “Every dollar spent on a rent abatement would be one less dollar for staff and repairs that we need to restore and maintain heat service,” Ms. Blake said.

    As the authority’s creaky boilers struggled to keep up with freezing temperatures last fall and winter, 323,098 residents did not have heat or hot water at some point between Oct. 1 and Jan. 22, according to agency data obtained by the City Council. During the same time period, 143,000 out of more than 175,000 public housing apartments were without heat and hot water for an average of 48 hours, according to the housing authority.

    According to the lawsuit, the housing authority closed heat complaints before they were resolved and misled the public about the length of the heat and hot water outages and how long it took to repair them.

    In a March 29 letter to The Legal Aid Society, Vito Mustaciuolo, the authority’s general manager, said NYCHA created a roving team to respond to repairs and partnered with other city agencies to expedite them. Mayor Bill de Blasio has also committed $200 million from the city budget to repair the heating infrastructure.

    Lucy Newman, staff attorney at the Legal Aid civil law reform unit, blamed the authority’s inability to provide heat for residents on poor management and staff cuts. The authority has approximately 248 boiler maintenance workers on staff, down from 391 in 2013.

    The lack of heat and hot water created havoc for Ms. Diamond, an eligibility specialist for the city’s Human Resources Administration and her husband, a groundskeeper for the housing authority. One daughter has asthma which was exacerbated by the cold, Ms. Diamond said. The family had to boil water to bathe and spent over $200 to buy space heaters, she said.

    “No one in 10-to-20-degree weather should have no hot water,” Ms. Diamond said.