Unless Governor Andrew Cuomo extends the commercial eviction moratorium that was originally issued in March, business owners behind on rent could find themselves facing eviction starting on Monday. Update: Governor Cuomo has extended the commercial eviction moratorium until October 20th for tenants that haven't paid their rent. [More details below.]

Tenants given an eviction order pre-pandemic are at risk to be forced out first, according to guidance issued in August by Caroline Tang-Alejandro, Director of the Bureau of City Marshals.

But even though marshals are technically on a holding pattern—waiting further court guidance or state renewal—some attorneys representing landlords in the city could push to have their eviction warrants executed for their clients as soon as they can.

Howard Kingsley, a real estate lawyer at Rosenberg & Estis, said that he doesn’t know “whether or not the marshals are going to be absolutely bombarded" and whether "there is going to be a tremendous delay in trying to get somebody out” on September 21st.

“We haven’t asked marshals to evict anybody on the first day -- at least I haven’t," he added. "I’m going to do it afterwards because I don’t want to be accused of looking to evict them beforehand."

Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Many tenants are still trying to understand conflicting moratorium deadlines. Cuomo’s September 20th extension order came days after a court memorandum that led many to believe they had until October 1st before eviction proceedings could resume. But that deadline only applied to residential tenants.

Loycent Gordon is the owner of Neir's Tavern, a nearly 200-year-old bar in Queens that almost closed back in January before the city stepped in. But now, due to a COVID-forced closure, Gordon says he owes a backlog of unpaid rent to his landlord, and the changing deadlines are adding to the stress.

“The leadership has been sending mixed signals from the beginning. It has passed down six and seven months later during this pandemic where we are still having confusion about some of these basic things that we should all be clear about,” said Gordon.

Reached by phone on Sunday, the building's owner, Henry Shi, said Gordon's lease has expired, and that Gordon has not replied to his messages for two weeks. Shi claims he offered Gordon a new lease, but they have not reached an agreement. "He did not reply, so I don't know what's going on," Shi said. "His lease has expired. The building is so old, so dangerous. I would like to do a full renovation, but I need Gordon to agree."

Gordon said that the days before the end of the moratorium are precious for owners trying to re-negotiate their leases, build a rapport with their landlords, or seek legal representation -- something he was not able to secure until the city intervened to help save the tavern earlier this year. Gordon is being helped by the city’s only full-service legal assistance program for small businesses, the Commercial Lease Assistance Program (CLA), which launched as a pilot program in 2018.

Having representation and support from the community is what allowed him to have an “open line of communication necessary for coming to an agreement” during this crisis to mitigate evictions.

“We’ve connected hundreds of business owners to pro bono legal partners through our Business Solutions Centers,” said a spokesperson for the city’s Small Business Services department.

But the CLA may be in a precarious situation. Mayor Bill de Blasio cut funding to the program in the new budget, but then expressed “remorse” after community outcry. Last month, the City Council passed a bill in August to restore funding, with a small budget of $1.5 million.

The non-profit clinic to which the city directs business owners on their website for “COVID-19-related legal assistance,” the City Bar Justice Center—which doesn’t receive funding from the city—is being inundated with requests, according to Akira Arroyo, who directs the program.

“We’ve had about 1,200 small businesses reach out to us for assistance, and while we’ve trained about 900 pro bono attorneys, they’re not all real estate or commercial leasing attorneys and that is the number one issue we are seeing now.”

That's why commercial tenants like Gordon are pushing for an extension, to give them more time to secure legal assistance. “This moratorium must be extended, so that when the dust is clear we actually have local restaurants to go back to that continue to provide to the tax base," Gordon said.

Update: The governor extended the commercial eviction moratorium until October 20th for those tenants that haven't paid their rent. The extension will largely impact commercial tenants that were facing eviction since before or on March 17th, as eviction proceedings that started during the pandemic will still be on hold. New York City marshals are awaiting court guidance on how to proceed with commercial evictions that don't regard nonpayment.

The state's residential eviction moratorium will still end on October 1st.