Watch CBS News

Forgotten Families: Elizabeth's Mayor Asks To Join Newark's Lawsuit Against NYC Over SOTA Program

ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Elizabeth's mayor is moving to join Newark's federal lawsuit against New York City over the controversial Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) program.

CBS2 has been reporting on the forgotten families for nearly a year.

On Wednesday, Mayor Chris Bollwage told CBS2's Lisa Rozner he was considering joining the lawsuit. Now Bollwage seems to have made up his mind, and legal requests are in the works.

"The only way to stop this is to go to court," Bollwage said Wednesday.

READ NEWARK'S LAWSUIT: Verified Complaint | Brief in Support of Order

Newark is suing New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steve Banks over the SOTA program. Since January, CBS2 has uncovered New York City paying landlords in New Jersey a year's rent up front to house homeless families. We found family after family was pressured to leave New York, ending up in units with no heat or water and infested with rodents.

MORE: More NJ Towns Taking Action In Response To NYC Program Relocating Forgotten Families

"There were 35 units in Elizabeth, and then what's called the Elizabeth Port area, there are 13 units there, and there are some in Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Union and elsewhere," Bollwage said. "If they're not going to tell us who's here, we're going to have to deal with it at the end of the year's lease."

Newark's lawsuit, which was filed Monday, asks a judge to immediately stop the program in New Jersey's largest city, and would force New York City to disclose where it has placed 1,200 families now living there.

WATCH: How Can New York's SOTA Program For Homeless Families Be Fixed?:

Ten months later, Newark said New York City still won't disclose details. The lawsuit even cites the case of Shakira Jones, who CBS2 profiled.

MORE: Months Later, Some Forgotten Families Still Find Themselves In Unlivable Conditions

The lawsuit says "only after CBS2 aired the documentary 'Forgotten Families,' did a DHS representative reach out."

"What New York City is doing, giving landlords a year's rent up front without inspecting, giving no opportunity for the SOTA recipient to have any remedy is a nuisance, a public nuisance," said Gary Lipschutz, assistant corporation counsel of Newark.

The lawsuit would also make New York create a fund to support exported families currently in Newark.

Several towns in Union County are in talks to join the lawsuit as well, Rozner reported Wednesday.

The lawsuit comes one week after Newark passed an ordinance making it illegal for landlords to accept a one year voucher as is done in the SOTA program.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.