New York to temporarily pause moving homeless to Newark

New York City has agreed to temporarily pause relocating homeless residents to Newark, New Jersey, following a lawsuit and claims that the city did not check on the conditions after residents were placed.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced the agreement in a news release Monday, saying that the two cities will work together to resolve the issue.

“So far, we’ve gotten much of what we asked for, and we look forward to continue to work collaboratively with New York City to improve the quality of life for their S.O.T.A. recipients,” said Mayor Baraka. “For us, this was always about making sure these people were in safe and sanitary housing, and they were handled in a dignified manner, not just jettisoned here with no safety nets.”

The city of Newark filed a federal lawsuit last week that claims when New York City case workers would pressure people eligible for the Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) program, which would move homeless residents to Newark and pay their rent for a year, they did not effectively check on the conditions of the homes to which they were placed.

Some of the conditions were uninhabitable, the suit claimed, with lack of heat and electricity, vermin and dangerous living conditions.

Avery Cohen, deputy press secretary for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, called the lawsuit “wrong, hypocritical, and amounts to nothing short of income-based discrimination.”

New York has agreed to release to Newark a confidential list of the about 1,200 families and individuals placed under SOTA. The two cities will work together to inspect living conditions and charge the landlords for any violations, the release said.

But a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said that there are more details to be worked out between the cities.

“This Administration wholeheartedly believes that people have the right to a roof over their heads and to choose where they want to live,” de Blasio Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein told CNN. “In the spirit of productive conversations and with the goal of moving toward an improved program, we will be temporarily pausing placements in Newark. We will be back in court on Thursday and if a satisfactory agreement is not met, we will file a formal challenge to the ordinance the next day.”

Goldstein said the names and addresses would be released once a confidentiality agreement was put in place.

The SOTA program provides working individuals or families who’ve been in a shelter for at least 90 days with one year’s rent paid in full to move into housing within New York City or another state, according to the New York City Human Resources Administration website.

The lawsuit says that when recipients contacted SOTA case workers about the conditions and lack of action by landlords, case workers claimed they could no longer help them because they were now residents of Newark.

Giselle Routhier, policy director at Coalition for the Homeless, a New York City-based advocacy group, said that while the program is flawed, the real problem lies with lack of quality, affordable housing from either city.

“Homeless families are being caught in the middle,” Routhier said.

CNN’s Rob Frehse and Evan Simko-Bednarski contributed to this report.