Cuts in federal funding for legal services for the poor have forced the Chinatown MFY Legal Services office at Grand and Elizabeth streets to close down.
The office’s staff, consisting of managing attorney Steve Meyers — whom Met Council endorsed last fall in his bid for a Manhattan Civil Court seat — and two staff attorneys, has been moved to the MFY office on Avenue A on the Lower East Side.
The office’s closing is considered to be a great loss by tenant and community leaders because it was Chinatown’s only local legal services office. Residents of the area seeking legal assistance, many of whom do not speak English, will be forced to leave their tight-knit community to find help elsewhere. Meyers said that he believed that many of “the most vulnerable people are not going to make it to Avenue A. Geographically it is not far away, but culturally it is worlds away.”
In order to preserve some services in the Chinatown community, MFY is planning to operate an interviewing and intake office in donated space at the corner of Broadway and Broome Street.
MFY is one of dozens of legal services offices for the poor throughout the city that are absorbing a 33 percent cut in federal funding for the national Legal Services Corporation. The cuts affect the entire nation. As a part of the temporary spending bills that Congress has adopted to continue governmental operations, $278 million out of the $415 million recommended by President Clinton was allocated to the Legal Services Corporation. New York City’s share is $10 million, down $4 million from last year’s $14 million.