The majority of the City Council has signed a letter urging Mayor Adams to contribute at least $195 million for legal service providers to the budget for the upcoming year, stating that the city-supported attorneys face a “funding crisis.”
Twenty-six of the Council’s 51 members signed the letter, which claimed that local public defenders and right-to-counsel providers needed pay raises to guarantee that the millions of New Yorkers who depend on them could continue to get free legal services.
The letter comes in the middle of a dispute over the municipal budget for the 2024 fiscal year between the mayor and the left-leaning Council. The month’s conclusion marks the day the city must adopt its budget.
A primary objective for Council negotiators is to support legal service providers, according to Councilman Shaun Abreu, a Manhattan Democrat, and the letter’s author.
He said that more than 25,000 tenants are going through the housing court system without engaging the legal representation to which they are entitled. The cost of salaries has been mentioned as a deterrent to hiring and keeping attorneys.
In an interview, Abreu stated, “This is a call to the administration to cough up and pony up the money to ensure that the right to counsel that was once promised continues to operate as intended.”
According to him, the $195 million sought is only a “fraction of what’s needed.”
Adams provided a $107 billion budget blueprint in April. The plan would be the biggest in the city’s history. Still, several public services, such as the 3-K for All preschool program, the library system, and a meal delivery program for older properly, are said to be brutally shortchanged.
The council members claimed in their letter that the budget plan’s inadequate support for criminal defense would contribute to the recent surge in defense attorney attrition.
The letter dated June 12 warned that if the issue is not resolved this year, New Yorkers “will be further disconnected from critical services, reinforcing bias in the legal system, and eroding public safety.”
Jonah Allon, a spokesman for the mayor, stated that the “most effective way for the City Council to ensure we can continue funding shared priorities is to work with us toward an early or on-time budget, and we look forward to that continued partnership in the coming days.”
According to Allon’s statement, by bolstering tenant safeguards, funding our groundbreaking Right to Counsel campaign, and providing renters with emergency rental assistance, we continue to help New Yorkers facing eviction stay in their homes.
Adams demanded increased funding for public defenders during a visit to Albany in the winter, claiming that they were overburdened and needed a significant state investment.
According to Gov. Hochul’s administration, the state budget enacted last month included $40 million for public defenders.