If you don't go you are taking a big chance that they will go and then you'll have a judgment against you. If you truly owe this debt why not try to work out a payment plan you can live with. If they get an arbitration award thata has to be registered as a judgment, then they can go after your assets. I would estimate 6 weeks from arbitration to execution but that is only an educated guess.
Work something out. If they get a judgment against you it will haunt you for the rest of your life (unless you are able to discharge it in bankruptcy). At each job you will be garnished. Your bank accounts will always be at risk and even if you are always vigilant there will always be someone looking to grab your property.
The collection firms are offering good deals right now everyone would rather have cash then a judgment that they have to chase. The financial situation is good for settlement offer them something you can afford and see what their counter is. DO NOT LET THEM TAKE A JUDGMENT AGAINST YOU!
Without any doubt, you should go to the hearing. If they do not show up, the case will be dismissed in your favor. In any event, if you have a number of debts, you may want to consider eliminating them in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, assuming that you qualify. Even if the credit card company gets a judgment against you from the arbitration proceeding, you can discharge that in bankruptcy.
Most bankruptcy proceeding on Long Island go very smoothly. I urge you to consider your bankruptcy options if you have any overwhelming debt. Please click the link below for more information. Good luck!