New York City on Thursday consented to a confidential mediation process to settle its efforts to limit its long-standing right-to-shelter obligations as the migrant crisis continues to strain local facilities and resources. The court agreement for now averts what would likely have been a protracted legal battle with homeless advocates.
“There should not be a war of legal papers,” said state Supreme Court Judge Gerald Lebovits in a Manhattan courtroom. “For now, the solution is to try to settle the matter if possible and to solve whatever problem might exist. To that effect, we have agreed that the proper path forward is to discuss logistics and nuts and bolts confidentially.”
Lawyers for the state and the nonprofit Legal Aid Society, which represents homeless New Yorkers and is involved in the litigation, also agreed to enter mediation, in which a neutral third party helps litigants achieve a resolution. According to Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney at the organization, Lebovits said he would serve as the mediator.
Once again, the judge presiding over the matter elected to hold the proceedings behind closed doors, despite significant public interest in the outcome of the case.
It remains to be seen whether Mayor Eric Adams can reach a compromise with Gov. Kathy Hochul and homeless advocates over a 40-year-old consent decree, which has formed the basis of the city’s homelessness policies but is now being reconsidered by city and state officials amid the recent influx of tens of thousands of migrants.
Earlier this month, Adams — with Hochul’s support — formally sought to roll back the consent decree, known as Callahan, which essentially mandates that city officials must provide a shelter bed to anyone in need.
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