Time Magazine's tasteless cover about the "Me Me Me Generation" predictably ruffled quite a few feathers this week. Some young and not so young commentators wondered how anyone could have approved a headline that qualifies an entire generation as "lazy," "entitled," and "narcissistic" when so many millennial are devoted change-makers.
As part of a series I'm calling "Millennials: When They're Not Busy Fetching Your Coffee," I've decided to cover some of the great work millennials are doing, you know when they're not Instagraming selfies or snap-chatting from their parents' basements. It may come as a surprise to some of the editors at TIME, but many millennials aren't just committed to changing their status updates, they're out there changing the status quo.
Although you may have heard about the recent case involving Sandy evacuees against the city of New York, what you probably don't know is that Millennials have an important role in it.
Six months after the super-storm hit New York, almost 500 families are still without permanent housing. Their only solace has been in the hotel housing program that the city has put in place after the storm hit. Although it's been a lifeline for these victims, the city has decided to unilaterally terminate the program. That's when a team of amazing lawyers at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP joined the Legal Aid Society in their effort to help these families.
Weil litigation partner and head lawyer on the case, Konrad Cailteux, says that the city hasn't lived up to its side of the bargain. Although a municipal hearing in February predicted that finding permanent housing would take 12-24 months, the city has decided to end the program only six months later.
"To take that away without any type of hearing, without any type of notice to the plaintiff as to what they've done wrong to not hold up their end of the bargain is, we believe, a violation of our clients' constitutional rights," Cailteux says.
In total, 488 households will be booted from the program and left to fend for themselves. Many families will tragically end up in homeless shelters despite being very close to landing permanent housing. One woman was simply waiting for a scheduled inspection to get the city's stamp of approval, but the city refused to extend her hotel program just long enough for her to move into her new place. "Some city officials have been helpful but some haven’t," explains Cailteux. Despite the city's best efforts to handle the lasting impact of Sandy, it seems very arbitrary that they would end the program unilaterally when so many evacuees depend on it. As Cailteux points out in reference to the woman on the verge of helping herself, "why in the world would the city stop her hotel room payments when we're only talking about a week or two and she could be in permanent housing?"
Thankfully, Legal Aid and the Weil pro-bono team were successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order on April 29, 2013 that prevented that sort of harm from happening ... for now. The team is set to litigate the issue in court on Monday to determine how long Sandy victims' rights will be protected.
The lawyers and paralegals on the case from Legal Aid and Weil make up a cross generational team, all working toward the same end — helping these families. Senior leaders on the case like Cailteux say they are proud of the millennials on board. "We have a great deal of confidence in our younger attorneys," and "a great deal of confidence in our younger folks," Cailteux told PolicyMic.
The junior-est associate from Weil, Christopher Lewarne, says that he's honored to be part of a team that values his work and allows Millennials to take on important responsibilities.
According to the 28- year-old first year associate, it hasn't been an easy task, but it's definitely been worth it. "It's an incredibly committed team to be on at Weil — Jesse Morris, Emily Pincow, Elizabeth McConville and Kacey Carter, all tirelessly led by Konrad and Isabella Lacayo. Tireless may be the right word. Everyone's been working round the clock on this case. But when the Court signed our restraining order the day before 488 families faced the loss of their temporary hotel housing, it was worth it. It felt like some good was done for some folks who needed it that day. There will be a hard fight in front of us Monday; but, today feels good," he said. Weil giving him a meaningful role in this case has helped him find his passion. "It feels good to be a part of this. I'm grateful to the firm for taking its pro bono commitments so seriously. This feeling — I know it's why I got into the law," he told PolicyMic.
The future of the case will be determined on Monday when the team will find out whether the restraining order will be extended and the Sandy victims protected for a little while longer.
For more updates on this case, follow me on Twitter: @feministabulous