177 Livingston Street 7th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 254-0700 info@bds.org

COVID-19 INFORMATION

Due to the ongoing public health emergency related to COVID-19, Brooklyn Defender Services’ physical offices are closed to visitors until further notice.

However, our staff continues working diligently on your cases and continues handling intake, arraignments, and emergencies. We are receiving calls and emails. If you are unable to reach our staff, please leave a message and we will respond as soon as we can. 

To access a directory of staff phone numbers, please click here.

To find a guide to available resource and services, please see our COVID-19 Resource Guide.

We understand that these are difficult times. We understand that life circumstances are being dramatically altered due to COVID-19.  We are available to help you. See below to learn more about how this affects your case and how to get in contact with our staff. 

 

For all criminal cases, including criminal cases sent to Family Court:

  • The criminal courts are closed except for arraignments, Youth Part 1 (YP1), and a limited number of urgent applications, all of which are being conducted by video. Although arraignments at 120 Schermerhorn St. are taking place by video, they are open to the public.  Members of the public can go to the arraignment courtroom on the first floor of 120 Schermerhorn St. and watch the video arraignment.  Arraignments of Adolescent Offenders in Youth Part 1 (YP1) at 320 Jay St. are also taking place by video.  Family and other members of the public may go to Youth Part 1 (YP1) and watch the video arraignment.
  • If you are a client or a family member of a client, do not go to court unless instructed to by an attorney. Most cases will be automatically adjourned to a new court date without clients appearing.
  • Your attorney will call you or your family with your new court date.
  • For questions about your case, if you already have your attorney’s phone number, please feel free to reach out to them directly. If not, or for additional information, please call 718-254-0700 or email bds@bds.org
  • Note: If you know or have a loved one incarcerated who is feeling ill or having difficulty accessing medical care, please contact Jail Services at 646-787-3325 (English) or 646-971-2710 (Spanish). The person must be represented by BDS.

 

For Family Court ACS cases:

  • Please do not travel to the Family Court as the Family Court is operating digitally and is hearing some cases remotely. If you are a client, please contact your attorney or social worker for your next court date and to discuss any issues you have with your family court case.
  • If you cannot reach your attorney or social worker or you have an emergency concerning removal of children, please call 347-592-2500. If someone doesn’t answer, we will call you back as quickly as possible.
  • If you are not a current BDS client but you are being investigated by ACS, please call 646-974-9343 for immediate assistance. If someone doesn’t answer, we will call you back as quickly as possible.

 

For Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court cases:

  • IDV court is physically closed. Cases will be automatically adjourned to a new court date without clients appearing.
  • IDV court is able to hear limited emergency applications.
  • If you have an order that is not being followed or need further legal relief, please contact your IDV attorney (A staff directory is listed at the top of this page)
  • Your attorney will call you or your family with your new court date.

 

For immigration cases:

  • To reach our immigration practice, please call: 718-564-6290
  • For questions regarding DETAINED individuals ONLY: 347-768-3040
  • ICE continues enforcement operations, including arrests at homes, places of business, and near courthouses. Know Your Rights by watching our video series: www.wehaverights.us
  • Until the close of business on July 1, 2020, all in-person reporting requirements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been suspended, and all appointments to report in person to ICE/ERO New York City, or any ICE sub-office (Central Islip and Newburgh) as well as to report in person to ICE contractors (BI) on ATD have been cancelled and will be rescheduled, or you will be contacted telephonically. Previously scheduled telephonic reporting has not been suspended.
  • Hearings for detained individuals are still occurring at the New York Varick Street Immigration Court; most are being conducted by video teleconference.
  • EOIR (Immigration court): Non-detained hearing at 26 Federal Plaza and 290 Broadway in New York scheduled at least through November 20, 2020 have be postponed. Some other immigration courts have resumed non-detained hearings.
  • USCIS is reopening the local offices to the public for ceremonies on June 15, 2020 and will gradually schedule inter-views and appointments later in the month. (Additional information about details has not been provided). Applicants who are scheduled to come to the office will receive a notice and instructions in the mail. Individuals should check the USCIS website and read notices carefully regarding COVID-19 related precautions and requirements for in person appointments.

 

For housing or civil cases:

  • Housing Court, NYCHA, and Evictions:
    • On June 30th, the Governor signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act into law which protects tenants who have not paid rent between March 7, 2020 and the to-be-determined date when their region fully opens, as long as they can prove they experienced financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis.
      • This means that a tenant cannot be evicted for unpaid rent that has accrued since the crisis began (as long as they can prove hardship).
      • A tenant, however, can still be held liable for the unpaid rent, as the landlord can receive a monetary judgement against the tenant for the rent accrued during the crisis.
    • The Tenant Safe Harbor Act does not protect tenants with existing warrants of eviction but the universal eviction moratorium continues to still be in place until further notice, and at least until August 6th.
    • Therefore, there will be no evictions of any kind, for anyone, as long as the moratorium is in place. 
    • NYC housing court began accepting new filings again on June 20th
      • Landlords are only permitted to file new eviction cases by mail and tenants who are served with papers for an eviction case do not need to visit the courthouse to respond.   
      • All new eviction petitions are required to include a notice to tenants that they do not have to visit the courthouse to respond to their eviction case.  The notice includes information about how a tenant can respond to the petition by phone.
      • At this time, the court will not be defaulting tenants who fail to respond to an eviction petition.
      • Lawyers for landlords who file a new eviction case must affirm to the court when they file that the eviction is not prohibited by the federal CARES Act moratorium on evictions, which prohibits evictions of tenants in public housing those with Section 8 rental vouchers or those who live in buildings with federally backed mortgages or funding until at least July 25th.
    • Until further notice, the court is not scheduling conferences or hearings in pending eviction cases in housing court in which a tenant is not currently represented by counsel.
    • However, the Office of Court Administration has decided to resume in-person trials in Brooklyn Housing Court beginning on July 27th and although the court will be prioritizing two attorney cases for these trials, they may resume trials involving unrepresented litigants.
    • Tenants who choose to do so may enter into written agreements with their landlords to apply their security deposits to rent and then pay back (replenish) the security deposit over a 12-month period that starts 90 days after the security deposit is applied to rent.
    • NYCHA and other administrative hearings are also being postponed. If you have a client who believes they have an upcoming hearing date let us know.
    • Please reach out to civil if a client receives anything from either court or their landlord.
  • Housing Court remains open for applications addressing post-eviction relief, illegal lockouts, emergency apartment repairs.

 

For questions about public benefits:

  • All negative case actions have been canceled. Appointments have been rescheduled. Recertifications have been extended automatically.
  • If you need to apply for public assistance or SNAP you can do so online or via the HRA Access app: https://a069-access.nyc.gov/accesshra/.
  • Most HRA offices are closed! If you must visit in person call 311 for available locations.
  • Food assistance is available at a food pantry near you.  Call 311 for locations.
  • If you have questions, or would like to speak to the civil practice, please ask your attorney to make a referral or contact us at 332-213-4193.

 

For questions about education and employment

  • For the 2020-21 school year, the New York City Department of Education has stated that it plans to open its schools using a “blended learning” model, with a mix of in-person and remote learning, as long as infection rates in the community stay below 3%. The DOE’s reopening plan is available here.
  • Students who are participating in blended learning will receive their school schedules at some point in August, but the DOE has indicated that students who opt to participate in blended learning will attend school between one and three days each week. Families also have the option for their students to do all of their learning remotely, and can indicate their desire to have their children attend school remotely full-time by filling out the learning preferences form.
  • The only opportunity to switch to blended learning will be from November 2-15, by filling out this form. Families who choose blended learning can choose for their children to do 100% remote learning at any time. More updates about the return to school can be found here.
  • Over 400 school locations are continuing to serve Grab and Go meals over the summer. Meals will be available for children and families from 7:30 a.m. through 11:30 a.m. and for adults from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. No registration, ID, or documentation is required to pick up these meals. People can find the closest location serving meals here. Families may also text the word “Food” or “Comida” to 877-877 to find the closest meal hub.
  • If you or a family member are unable to work because of factors related to coronavirus, you may be eligible for immediate unemployment insurancepandemic unemployment assistancevarious forms of paid leaveworker’s compshort term disability, or a reasonable accommodation such as working from home.  You also have the right to work in safe conditions and have protections against discrimination.
  • If you want more information about your child’s educational rights in this uncertain time, or what employment benefits you might be eligible for, contact us at education@bds.orgemployment@bds.org, or call us at 646-971-2722.

 

Community office:

  • Our community office is currently closed but we are working remotely and available to help.
  • If you have issues or questions about ACS, education, housing, education, employment benefits, re-entry services, criminal matters or general legal issues, please call 646-971-2722 or email us at communityoffice@bds.org.

 

For all media and press inquiries please email Daniel Ball at dball@bds.org.