City of Newark sues New York City, claims NYC is "coercing" homeless to move to New Jersey

The Garden State's biggest city says its neighbor is moving homeless people into "Illegal and/or uninhabitable" units on other side of Hudson.
People facing homeless issues in New York
A homeless begs for money on April 6, 2018 in New York.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / VIEW press/Corbis via Getty Images file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By David K. Li

The city of Newark, New Jersey, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio over their program that relocates homeless people west over the Hudson River.

New Jersey's largest city claimed New York's "Special One-Time Assistance" (SOTA) program — which pays for a year's rent up front for participants — is so poorly run that homeless people are coerced into moving into Newark and forced to live in "Illegal and/or uninhabitable housing."

"Defendants, however, failed to inspect, or failed to adequately inspect, the apartments where defendants are coercing SOTA recipients to move into," according to the civil action filed in Newark federal court.

"Defendants failed to provide a system to adequately hold participating landlords and real estate brokers accountable for illegal and/or uninhabitable housing."

Newark is asking for a temporary restraining order and then a permanent injunction against New York City from "further implementation of the SOTA program in Newark," the civil action said.

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

A representative for Mayor de Blasio accused Newark of heartlessly targeting homeless people.

“In the face of a regional housing crisis, the City of Newark has inexplicably taken a page from the Trump playbook, building a wall to single out and prevent families from seeking housing where they want to live," according to a City Hall statement on Tuesday.

"This is wrong, hypocritical, and amounts to nothing short of income-based discrimination. We will continue to fight to ensure that families have the right to seek stable and safe housing.”

In a separate legal filing asking for the preliminary injunction, Newark city officials said their beef is with New York City officials administering their housing plan and not with homeless people themselves.

"To be clear, this application is not an indictment of homeless people," according to the New Jersey city. "Newark does not blame the victims of the actions of the defendants."

In that court filing, Newark said homeless New Yorkers were being pressured with an "offer they can't refuse."

That Newark brief, penned by Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart and Assistant Corporation Counsel Gray Lipshutz, included a footnote citation explaining that the commonly used phrase comes from 1972 cinema classic "The Godfather."

"Vito Corleone remarks that he will make uncooperative studios head Jack Woltz, 'An offer he can't refuse,'" the Newark lawyers explained in the footnote.

"This initially appears innocent enough, as the viewer may believe this refers to a deal Woltz simply can't pass up, something so good that Woltz will just have to say yes. Within a few scenes, the viewer learns the truth, that the 'offer' was no offer at all, it was really a command."