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Empire Justice Condemns Cutting Support for Struggling Homeowners in the Executive Budget

Posted on February 3rd, 2023

For Immediate Release                     

February 3, 2023

For More Information Contact Alex Dery Snider:

Aderysnider@empirejustice.org  518-462-6831







Statement from Empire Justice Center President and CEO Kristin Brown on Governor Hochul’s executive budget: 

“While we were grateful to see positive steps – including the continued funding of important programs that provide legal assistance to low income New Yorkers like the Disability Advocacy Program, Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program, and Community Health Advocates; indexing of the minimum wage; and addressing “skimming” of public benefits  – there were a number of notable gaps, including increasing the Shelter Allowance and Cash Assistance grant levels, which are woefully out of date. Additionally, Empire Justice advocates are shocked to see that funding for foreclosure prevention through the Homeowners Protection Program (HOPP) was cut entirely from the executive budget. The lack of support to current homeowners is especially concerning given the Governor’s historic commitment to build 800,000 new homes in every part of the state.  Last year’s budget included $35 million. 


HOPP is New York State’s only homeowner retention program. It funds 89 non-profits providing housing counseling and legal services to distressed homeowners in every county of the state since 2012. More than 275,000 New York homeowners currently report being behind on their mortgage according to U.S. Census data and that is not counting families facing tax foreclosure. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated issues for homeowners especially in Black and Brown communities. Post-pandemic assistance programs are helpful but complicated to navigate and even tougher with recent interest rate hikes.  After a decade of building the HOPP network, passing laws to help homeowners that depend on HOPP services, and given the historic push to increase the housing stock, getting rid of services that help current homeowners will be disastrous for families, the courts, and communities. Historically, each $1 million invested in HOPP yields a return of over $5 million in tax and property cost savings.  


Cutting HOPP would be devastating for struggling homeowners and their communities. We call on the Governor to restore funding in a 30-day amendment and we ask for total funding of $40 million to support this crucial program.”


About Empire Justice Center

Empire Justice Center is a statewide nonprofit law firm with offices in Rochester, Albany, Yonkers, White Plains, and on Long Island whose mission is to make the law work for all New Yorkers, particularly for those who need its protection most. We take a 360-degree, comprehensive approach to changing systems by engaging in three major and interconnected areas of service. We teach the law by providing training, support and technical assistance to legal services and other community-based organizations to strengthen their work; we practice the law by providing direct, civil legal assistance to low-income people with a particular focus on those from marginalized communities such as LGBTQ; minorities, immigrants and LEP; and crime victims; and we change the law by engaging in policy analysis, research and advocacy and undertaking impact litigation to get at the root of systemic issues.




Read the Statement as a PDF

Empire Justice Center logo on a red background

Empire Justice Center Condemns the Murder of Tyre Nichols

Posted on February 1st, 2023

Empire Justice Center Condemns the Murder of Tyre Nichols

No one should die as a result of a traffic stop. Empire Justice Center joins with organizations and individuals across the country in condemning the killing of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers.

On January 10th, Tyre Nichols became one in a horrifically long list of young Black men, women, and children whose lives were ended in confrontations with police over traffic and other low-level stops. But we must not let the numbers numb us to his humanity.  Mr. Nichols was a photographer, a dreamer, a father, and a son. Some will try to explain or justify his death. We urge you to remember who he was. His photography website is here:  https://thiscaliforniakid2.wixsite.com/tnicholsphotography

As we mourn the loss of another young Black man in a police confrontation, we must also press for change. Empire Justice Center’s Police Reform Project takes our first step in seeking change in New York, issuing a preliminary report last week, “STOP THE STOPS – The Disparate Use and Impact of Police Pretext Stops on Individuals and Communities of Color.” We invite you view the report and join us in one of the ways listed on our webpage.


View This Statement as a PDF.




Empire Justice Center is a statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy, public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low-income families live. Empire Justice protects and strengthens the legal rights of people in New York State who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised through: systems change advocacy, training and support to other advocates and organizations, and high quality direct civil legal representation. Empire Justice has offices in Albany, Rochester, Yonkers, White Plains and Central Islip on Long Island. For more information, please visit empirejustice.org.

Disability Law News – January 2023

Posted on January 31st, 2023

The Disability Law News is published four times per year for disability advocates across New York State.

To download the January 2023 issue, click here!

Featured articles in this issue:

When Will SSA Finally Replace the D.O.T.?

2023 SSI Benefits Chart Available

Service of Process Rules Amended for Federal Court Appeals

SSA to Incorporate Inclusive Language in Documents

Medicaid “Unwinding” Scheduled to Begin


2023 Policy Priorities – Empire Justice Center

Posted on January 25th, 2023

Empire Justice Center is a non-profit law firm dedicated to making the law work for all New Yorkers. Through our 360 degree approach – practicing the law, teaching the law, and changing the law – we achieve justice for the people who need it most.

You can read our full policy agenda here: 2023 Policy Priorities

Close-up of the stature of liberty

Celebration of Leadership 2022

Posted on December 12th, 2022


On November 17, Empire Justice Center held its signature fundraising event, A Celebration of Leadership 2022 to honor New York State leaders for their contributions to access to justice. We had a fabulous time celebrating those who have played a key role in the success of Empire Justice, in the civil legal services community and in working toward achieving access to justice for all New Yorkers.

For those who were unable to attend, we presented our Leadership Awards to T. Andrew Brown, Founder and Managing Partner of Brown Hutchinson LLP; Dr. Laura Gonzalez-Murphy, Executive Director of the NYS Office for New Americans (ONA); and posthumously to Don Friedman, inaugural managing attorney and founder of Empire Justice Center’s Long Island office at the Public Advocacy Center on the Touro Law School.

It was great to be back in person celebrating with those who joined us who helped to raise critical unrestricted funds to ensure that Empire Justice continues making the law work for all New Yorkers, especially those who need its protection the most. Please take a moment to view the event videos below to learn more about our honorees, view pictures as well as the event journal and sponsors.

We can’t thank you enough!

Kristin Brown, President and CEO

Emily Whalen, Esq., Board Chair

Policy Matters – October 2022

Posted on October 31st, 2022

Welcome to the October edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover our work to promote greater access to justice, the massive inadequacy of the current public assistance grants, how to combat deed theft, the launch of our new school discrimination helpline, help for people with student debt, presentations and recognition for some of our amazing staff, marking Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and our upcoming Celebration of Leadership event!

Read the full newsletter here: Policy Matters – October 2022

Disability Law News – October 2022

Posted on October 31st, 2022

The Disability Law News is published four times per year for disability advocates across New York State.

To download the October 2022 issue, click here!

Featured articles in this issue:

New Faces Join DAP Statewide Support

What is DAP Statewide Legal Support?

Historic COLA Increase for 2023

SCOTUS Amends the FRCP for Social Security Appeals

Spotlight on Marriage Penalties

SSAB Encourages SSA to Use Data to Access Equity

Pile of newspapers

Policy Matters – September 2022

Posted on September 30th, 2022

Welcome to the September edition of our newsletter, Policy Matters. In this edition we cover our annual testimony on the importance of civil legal services, a final push for new tenant protections, our work to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act, advocacy for limited English proficiency SNAP recipients, recommendations for uniform standards of eligibility in family courts, a collection of recent legal education efforts, recognition of excellence in advocacy for several staff members, and last but not least – an invitation to our next Celebration of Leadership event in Albany!

Read the full newsletter here: Policy Matters – September 2022

Policy Matters - September 2022. Image of Senior Attorney speaking at a press conference with local and state-level elected officials. Kirsten Keefe

Important Notice for Individuals with Disabilities Who Are Applying for or Trying to Keep Public Benefits in Suffolk County

Posted on August 10th, 2022

Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement Regarding Disability Accommodations at the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.

Attorneys from the Empire Justice Center, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) and Dentons LLP obtained class certification and a settlement in a Federal Court class action case called Newkirk v. Pierre, 19-cv-4283 (E.D.N.Y.). Plaintiffs in this lawsuit are individuals with disabilities who need help applying for or trying to keep public benefits through programs run by the Suffolk County Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

This is an important notice about accessing Public Benefits and a proposed Settlement in a Federal Court class action case. Please read the entire notice provided in the links below if:

  1. You are an individual with a disability living in Suffolk County, New York; AND
  2. You have applied for or will apply for benefits and services from SCDSS, including SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance, and Temporary Housing Assistance (THA); AND
  3. Because of your disability, you need help applying for or keeping those benefits and services.


Audio Recording of Notice


Members of the Plaintiff Class who are deaf or hard of hearing and require interpreter services to participate in the Fairness Hearing with the Court on September 6, 2022, should contact the National Center for Law and Economic Justice at info@nclej.org, or (212) 633-6967, in advance of the hearing.

Press Release Announcement


Aviso Importante para Personas con Discapacidades que Solicitan o Intentan Mantener Beneficios Públicos en el Condado de Suffolk

Posted on August 10th, 2022

Aviso de propuesta de acuerdo de demanda colectiva sobre Adaptaciones para Personas con Discapacidad en el Departamento de Servicios Sociales del Condado de Suffolk

Los abogados del Empire Justice Center, el  National Center for Law and Economic Justice (Centro Nacional para la Ley y la Justicia Económica) y Dentons LLP obtuvieron la certificación colectiva y un acuerdo en un caso de demanda colectiva del Tribunal Federal llamado Newkirk v. Pierre, 19-cv-4283 (E.D.N.Y.). Los demandantes en esta demanda son personas con discapacidades que necesitan ayuda para solicitar o tratar de mantener los beneficios públicos a través de programas administrados por el Departamento de Servicios Sociales del Condado de Suffolk (SCDSS).


Lea el aviso completo proporcionado en el siguiente enlace si:

  1. Usted es una persona con una discapacidad que vive en el condado de Suffolk, Nueva York;
  2. Ha solicitado o solicitará beneficios y servicios de SCDSS, que incluyen SNAP (cupones de alimentos), Medicaid, Asistencia Temporal y Asistencia de Vivienda Temporal (THA); Y
  3. Debido a su discapacidad, necesita ayuda para solicitar o mantener esos beneficios y servicios.



Los miembros de la Clase de Demandantes que son sordos o tienen problemas de audición y requieren servicios de interpretación para participar en la Audiencia de Equidad con el Tribunal el 6 de Septiembre de 2022, deben comunicarse con el National Center for Law and Economic Justice (Centro Nacional para la Ley y la Justicia Económica) en info@nclej.org , o ( 212) 633-6967, antes de la audiencia.

Press Release Announcement