Good morning. It is Friday. Today we look at New York’s moratorium, which is about to expire. We’ll also be looking at New York’s first comprehensive Sherlock Holmes exhibit in over 50 years.
The state’s eviction moratorium was a lifeline for tenants as their incomes dried up in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the state is taking a risky step as infections caused by Omicron continue to rise: Officials are lifting the ban on Saturday’s evictions.
“It’s a moment of a lot of uncertainty and uncertainty,” said Siya Hegde of Bronx Defenders, a not-for-profit legal services firm that represents tenants.
The care extends beyond the housing court. Many officials and housing advocates worry that a stampede of eviction cases could steer New York’s precarious recovery in the wrong direction, and not just economically. It is also feared that crime and homelessness could increase.
The numbers, which rose in 2020, remain staggering. The National Equity Atlas, a research tool that collects national economic data, estimates that 591,000 New York state households are in rent arrears and owe more than $1.97 billion. In New York City, delinquent households owe an average of about $3,500.
My colleague Mihir Zaveri writes that even before the pandemic, a quarter of households in the city were heavy on costs, meaning more than half of their income went to rent and utilities. The pandemic only made it worse. The state has received more than 291,000 applications for housing benefit since last summer.
The eviction crisis is challenging for Governor Kathy Hochul, who has made housing a central point of her agenda as she prepares for a full term in November. She is under pressure from landlords, who have lost huge amounts of rental income during the pandemic and have complained that the moratorium was easily abused. She has also been criticized by left-wing Democrats for letting the moratorium expire before new deportation guarantees were ready.
Hochul said this week she was talking to state lawmakers about next steps. She and three other Democratic governors — New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker — wrote to the federal government seeking more rent relief for states like theirs with high concentrations of renters.
What to do after the deportation moratorium has passed is just one of the challenges Hochul faces. Another is working with the Albany legislature.
She has promised a “new era” of cooperation with lawmakers. Outlining a comprehensive policy agenda — a wish list she can’t push into reality without them — she said last week that “the days of governors ignoring the legitimate role of this legislator are over.” She will publish her budget proposals next week.
My colleagues Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Grace Ashford write that Hochul’s priorities are in sync with those of the Democratic leadership, but the new legislature could be more unruly than the last. She will have to deal with progressives elected last year after upsetting deep-seated incumbent leaders. The newcomers were able to push Hochul, a moderate, to the left.
It’s January, always a time of optimism in Albany, and for now, most Democratic lawmakers seem to want to minimize their disagreements. But it is already clear that there are differences that Hochul will have to bridge. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic-majority leader in the state Senate, has said that “it is time for us to realize universal, affordable childcare.” Hochul didn’t stop to go that far. Her version would target 100,000 low-income families.
Another Hochul proposal that could run into turbulence: term limits for elected officials statewide. Carl Heastie, the Assembly speaker, has expressed reservations about the idea.
It is a partly sunny day, with gusts of wind that last well into the night. The temps will rise to 40s by late morning and drop to mid 30s by evening. At night, the skies are usually clear with temperatures below the 20s.
parking on the other side
Valid through Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day).
For survivors of the Bronx fire, frustration
A group of tenants, accompanied by religious leaders, gathered outside the Bronx apartment building destroyed by a smoky fire Sunday, saying they were being pressured to return home too soon. Community activists representing them also expressed frustration that the donations were not reaching residents.
Of the 120 apartments, the city says only 35 are uninhabitable. Residents like Mabintou Tunkara, who lives in one of the other 85 apartments, don’t want to go back.
“Everyone is covered in smoke,” she said. “Everything.”
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Not so elementary
For me, one of the lessons from the interview I did about a new Sherlock Holmes exhibit was that Holmes was so famous that he was depicted in books that weren’t about him.
One was ‘Escaped From Sing Sing’, which featured a pipe-smoking man on the cover. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Holmes, visited the infamous Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, NY, in 1914. Conan Doyle was even briefly locked in a cell. He said it was “the most restful time I’ve had since arriving in New York because it was the only chance I had to get away from reporters.”
I learned this from Glen Miranker, a former Apple executive who collects Holmesiana – items about Holmes, Watson and Conan Doyle. He owns more than 7,000 books, illustrations and letters. He distilled them for “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects,” an exhibit at the Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street in Manhattan.
Conan Doyle may have been relieved to get away from reporters at Sing Sing. They certainly followed his every move during an evening at that noisy oceanfront playground, Coney Island, where The New York Times reported that he “saw all there was to see and did many of the things for which Comey is famous.” It was a bit much: “Coney Island doesn’t give you time to think,” he said.
Miranker’s enthusiasm for Holmes and Conan Doyle, reflected in the exhibit, ranges from pages of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” to Conan Doyle’s handwritten letters. And there’s a copy of “The Sign of the Four,” the second of the four Holmes novels.
There seemed to be a mystery about that book: why did Conan Doyle sign it?
It was an illegal release. Conan Doyle hated pirated editions, which paid the authors nothing.
On the front was another signature, that of HN Higinbotham, a Chicago magnate who had been a friend of Abraham Lincoln (and who died after being hit by an ambulance on Madison Avenue in Manhattan). Higinbotham also wrote down the date: October 12, 1894, the day he gave a dinner party for Conan Doyle.
Miranker concluded that Higinbotham ran out and “bought the first Conan Doyle book he could find” — and asked him to sign it.
What we are reading
Can not be missed
I was walking through SoHo when I noticed a crowd in front of the Crosby Street Hotel. I asked a young couple who they were waiting for.
We don’t know, they said, explaining that they had seen the crowd and decided to wait too.
I asked how long they had waited.
About 30 minutes, they told me.
“You’ve been waiting 30 minutes for someone you don’t know?” I asked.
“Yes,” one of them said. “Maybe it’s a celebrity.”
I walked a few yards and saw a woman standing with what looked like her two teenage daughters.
“Who are you waiting for?” I asked her.
“We don’t know,” the woman said. “We saw the crowd and decided to wait. It could be someone famous.”
“How long have you waited?” I asked.
“Maybe about 40 minutes or so,” the woman said. “Not quite sure.”
At that point, the hotel doors opened, but only for the doorman to make sure the crowd didn’t block the entrance.
As I walked a little further up the block, I saw a man sitting in a car.
“Are you waiting too?” I asked him.
“Sure!” he said.
“But you don’t know who it is?”
“Never mind, it could be someone,” he said.
“And if it’s anyone,” he added, “I don’t want to miss it.”