NEW YORK — The City Council empowered Speaker Adrienne Adams on Thursday to take legal action against Mayor Eric Adams over his refusal to implement a set of new housing voucher laws — but the speaker played coy on what exactly comes next.
Thursday’s procedural step came in the form of a resolution authorizing the speaker to pursue legal action on behalf of the full Council to compel the mayor to implement the laws, which are designed to expand access to CityFHEPS, a voucher program subsidizing rent for low-income New Yorkers. The measure breezed through the Council in a voice vote with overwhelming support.
With the resolution adopted, the speaker wouldn’t say what form any legal action against the mayor will take, though, or when it might be initiated.
“There has been no final decision yet on any legal action,” she told reporters. “But this maintains our ability to keep our options open, that’s what the resolution does.”
Among other provisions, the laws in dispute would expand access to CityFHEPS by eliminating a rule requiring that otherwise income-eligible individuals must enter a homeless shelter before they can apply for a voucher. By scrapping that rule, Council Democrats have argued the city can prevent more New Yorkers from becoming homeless.
The Council enacted the laws last summer by overriding the mayor’s vetoes of them. Nonetheless, the mayor didn’t implement the laws by a legally mandated Jan. 9 deadline, arguing the city can’t shoulder the added cost that would come with them.
After Thursday’s resolution vote, Adams spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak reiterated that argument, saying “this legislation will add $17 billion onto the backs of our taxpayers” — a figure Council Democrats argue is exaggerated.
The speaker’s reluctance to talk about what exactly her next step will be on the legal front comes as others are also mulling court action over the CityFHEPS matter.
The Legal Aid Society, which by law represents the city’s homeless population, said last month it would file a lawsuit against the mayor to force him to implement the CityFHEPS laws. At the time, a Council spokesman said the speaker was eyeing legal action, too, and that it wasn’t clear whether she would bring her own lawsuit or join Legal Aid’s filing.
A spokesman for the Legal Aid Society declined to comment after Thursday’s vote.