LEGAL SERVICES

NY Housing Updates: Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium, COVID-19 Discrimination, NYCHA & Section 8 Rent Hardships

March 30, 2020 // 0 Comments

The Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) is operational and ready to serve you. Our offices at 55 Water Street are closed but we are working remotely. Call us with your housing questions and for legal representation at 212-815-1111. During the public health emergency caused by COVID-19:  There will be no evictions or foreclosures through June 18, 2020.  Your landlord cannot start a lawsuit against you for non-payment of rent. However, the landlord may send you a rent demand notice asking you to pay your rent and threatening a lawsuit if you fail to make payment.  Your landlord cannot start a “holdover” lawsuit against you for grounds other than non-payment. However, the landlord may send you a termination notice or a notice to quit threatening to commence a court case if you don’t move out by a date certain. Your landlord cannot evict you or ask you to leave your apartment [More...]

Union Legal Services Are Available

March 24, 2020 // 0 Comments

By BILL WHALEN, Director and Chief Counsel, DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services The lawyers, legal assistants and clerical workers at MELS are continuing to serve members remotely. Our Screening Unit can be reached at 212-815-1111 and can connect you with an attorney.  New York courts are operating on an emergency basis. They are only handling emergency applications. These include: Applications to stop garnishments and unfreeze bank accounts that are the result of a judgment in consumer debt cases; Applications to get back into your apartment if you have been locked out by the landlord or evicted by a City Marshal; Applications to correct serious housing code violations and reductions in essential services; Emergency family offense petitions; Temporary orders of protection; Orders to show cause in Family Court proceedings. Federal Bankruptcy courts also are operating on an [More...]

Important Information About Your DC 37 Health & Security Plan Benefits During COVID-19

March 23, 2020 // 0 Comments

YOUR OPTUMRx PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT (All Active and Non-Medicare, Pre-65 Eligible Participants) Refill Too Soon. Effective immediately, in consideration of the COVID-19 situation, the DC 37 Health & Security Plan requested and OptumRx has agreed to immediately lift the “Refill Too Soon” restriction on covered drugs until further notice. Drugs with significant abuse potential (i.e. opioids) or those that are generally dosed for finite durations or intermittently (i.e. hepatitis or fertility treatments) as identified by OptumRx will follow the normal process for renewals. Prior Authorizations Extended. OptumRx has also agreed to extend Prior Authorizations (PAs) for member medications that are set to expire on or before May 1, 2020. This policy went into effect March 18, 2020.  For chronic condition medications, OptumRx will extend PAs for an additional 90 days past May 1, [More...]

DC 37 Contact Numbers

March 20, 2020 // 0 Comments

IMPORTANT: DC 37 COVID-19 INFORMATION DC 37 contact numbers DC 37 Hotline 212.815.7555 DC 37 Safety and Health 212.815.1685 Health and Security Plan Inquiry Unit 212.815.1234 H&S TTY (Teletypewriter) 212.815.1266 H&S Info for Retirees Toll-Free 1.877.323.7738 outside of NY/NJ/CT Personal Service Unit 212-815-1250  Education Fund 212.815.1700 Municipal Employees Legal Services 212.815.1111   DC 37 Divisions DC 37 Non-Profit and Private Sector Division 212.219.0022 DC 37 Blue Collar Division 212.815.1010 DC 37 Clerical-Administrative Division 212.815.1020 DC 37 Hospitals and Healthcare Professionals Division 212.815.1030 DC 37 Professional Division 212.815.1040 DC 37 Schools Division 212.815.1050 DC 37 White Collar Division 212.815.1060 Retirees Association 212.815.1781 DC 37 Locals Local 95 Head Start Employees 212.219.0022 Local 107 National Membership and Fundraising [More...]

Cultural Trust Restores Union’s Legal Services

February 3, 2020 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Beginning March 1, DC 37 will resume offering legal services to members employed at and who have retired from New York City’s cultural institutions. “We are geared up and excited to offer much-needed legal services to these DC 37 members with no increase to their dues,” said William Whalen, the director of the Municipal Employees Legal Services. About 3,000 DC 37 members in six locals: 374, 1306, 1501, 1502, 1503, and 1559 and retirees will have access to MELS lawyers. These union members work at the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, Wave Hill, the New York Aquarium, Brooklyn, Queens and NY Botanical Gardens, and other cultural sites. They should expect to receive a letter from DC 37 explaining the benefit shortly, Whalen said. After the 2008 stock market crash, the Cultural Trust lost a [More...]

MELS Highlights Income Tax Changes

February 1, 2020 // 0 Comments

MELS, the DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services, held a tax workshop in January providing advice for members and retirees about significant changes in the tax law. These changes will impact those filing their 2019 tax returns, due on April 15. Here are the highlights: The standard deduction has increased. For those filing Single, and Married Filing Separately, the deduction is $12,200, while for couples filing Married, Jointly, the deduction is $24,400, and for those filing as Head of Household, the deduction is $18,350. For divorces after Dec. 31, 2018, alimony received is not taxable, nor is it deductible by the person paying. The child tax credit for dependent children under 17 has been increased from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. There is a new form, 1040 SR, for seniors over 65. The penalty for not having health insurance has been abolished. Also new for 2018 and 2019, the maximum [More...]

Nightmare Ends With Citizenship

January 29, 2020 // 0 Comments

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS Almost seven years to the day his immigration nightmare began, Local 983 member Jose Molina began 2020 with the oath of citizenship. His family, union leaders, and a cadre of immigration lawyers and supporters witnessed the swearing-in ceremony at Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan Jan. 17. “I am just so happy and thankful that this day has come and I am finally an American citizen,” Molina said. He came to the United States as an infant and faced deportation to Panama for a crime he committed and served time for more than 20 years ago. Molina, an Associate Parks Service Worker, was initially detained in 2013 after an early-morning raid of his home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He was arrested again after he reported to immigration court to comply with a judge’s orders. DC 37 monitored his immigration case and fought on his behalf in union [More...]

Union Explains Statewide Tenant Reforms at Workshop

September 30, 2019 // 0 Comments

By MIKE LEE The hard-won, historic changes to New York’s rent regulation laws have raised many questions about the new rights and benefits tenants now have under the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 passed by the state Legislature. DC 37’s Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) stepped up to help answer these questions at a recent workshop attended by more than 100 members. “There are more than a 100 pages of changes in the new law,” explained supervising attorney John Bart. “These are changes that benefit our members.” Tenant rights activists and organizers Michael McKee and Anita Long briefed the audience on the efforts to push Albany to pass these reforms. This effort reversed a decades-long trend of legislation wedded to big-money real estate interests. Among the legislation’s many reforms: Ending “vacancy increases,” which landlords used to [More...]

Big Turnout at Housing Fair

August 27, 2019 // 0 Comments

BY DIANE S. WILLIAMS Hundreds of DC 37 members and retirees took their first steps towards buying a home at the union’s 14th annual housing fair on Aug. 24 at 125 Barclay Street. “Home ownership is possible for our members,” said Ruth Pena, director of the Municipal Employees Housing Program. “We start with budgeting and saving for the purchase to closing on a house, condo or coop apartment. We offer a range of service providers — real estate agents, home inspectors, mortgage lenders, and more. We work within members’ budgets and even repair their credit report.” Members participated in workshops and classes Saturday afternoon that helped them prepare for home ownership. Those searching for apartments can access a special 5 percent set aside of affordable rentals. Members who may be homeless or victims of domestic violence can also find safe housing through the program. [More...]

Head of Legal Services Retires

January 25, 2019 // 0 Comments

By GREGORY N. HEIRES Family, friends, coworkers and judges on Jan. 18 gathered to bid farewell to Joan Beranbaum, the director and chief counsel of the DC 37 Municipal Employees Legal Services Plan, who is leaving the union after 39 years with the program. Beranbaum was among the first group of employees to join the legal services program when it opened in 1977. Beranbaum learned about the job opening while she was working at the Legal Aid Society, where she was hired right after she graduated from New York University Law. MELS attracted her because it was a pioneering service for union workers. At her retirement party, Beranbaum noted that over the course of her nearly four-decade career at DC 37, MELS handled the cases of half a million DC 37 members and retirees. Speakers praised Beranbaum for devoting her career to working people rather than the rich and powerful. She remained [More...]