Thursday, June 11, 2015

New York is in a Housing Crisis: Rent Stabilization Now Civil Disobedience at Governor Cuomo's Office #saveourhomes #yearofthetenant #tenanttakeover

 Local NYC residents engaged in civil disobedience blocking
Cuomo’s NYC office to protest his handling of the housing crisis in New 
York. Their demands are: Stronger Rent Laws, Repeal Vacancy Decontrol, End
421-a tax giveaways.

A group of New York City residents blocked the office of office of
Governor  Cuomo demanding that he change rent laws by June 15th in favor
of low and moderate-income New Yorkers. Though Cuomo has made some
statements in  support of rent regulations, the demonstrators said that
his words have not  yet translated into action. They stressed that Cuomo
has not addressed  critical housing issues such as Vacancy Decontrol and
the 421-a tax  giveaway to developers.The 421-a program has resulted in
the loss of $1.1 billion dollars in tax revenue annually. (5/28/15 NY
Observer). Many luxury developers are benefiting from these tax
abatements without providing any affordable housing.

Vacancy Decontrol has eliminated 300,000 rent regulated apartments in
NYC, the majority of which housed low income and people of color. If
things don't change, many more affordable units will be lost.

  “Housing Justice is Racial Justice” was one of the protester's slogans.
They released a statement saying, "Housing policy in NYC has always been
  marked by discrimination and corruption, from the redlining policies
that denied mortgage loans to residents in neighborhoods of color, to
the more  recent subprime mortgage scandal, to the ongoing racist
discrimination by  landlords seeking to cash in on gentrification."

Ava Farkas, Director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing explained,
“We all know NYC is facing a massive housing crisis, and the stakes are
now higher than ever. “This is a moment to either push as hard as
possible for stronger rent regulations  or watch as the last remnants of
affordability and tenant protection are stripped from our city.”

  Demonstrators described themselves as ordinary New Yorkers, saying, "As
low income renters and tenants of color we are taking matters into our
own hands." Citing the Black Lives Matter movement, they maintained that
"the only way policymakers listen to disenfranchised people is when we
take to  the streets and disrupt business as usual."

"I came to New York in 1976 as an art student," explained Seth Tobocman, one of
the organizers.  "Now  I am now a teacher.  There was
affordable housing then.  It was possible to start a life here.   But every year the rents
have gone up, making it near impossible for artists to get a start here.
We need to stop vacancy  decontrol.  We need a rent rollback and home rule
for New York housing issues."

Building on decades of organizing efforts around squatting, community gardening,and occupy movements, he expressed a degree of optimism about the work of such organizing efforts.
"We got our initiation in  a very conservative period.  We can do more than we imagine."

  “We are tired of being displaced, extorted, harassed and ignored. We
will continue to bring our grievances to the doorsteps of the powers
that be  until we are heard.” said Sara Quinter one of the residents
taking part in  the demonstration.

"There is a housing crisis in New York," noted Jessica Rechtschaffer.   "Politicians in New York are being whitewashing the entire issue.  The Rent regulations are up for renewal
and they are there doing last minute horse trading.  Yet people's lives are at stake.  We need to keep rent control and HDFC.  If that went away none of us would be able to stay in our buildings.  And we have to do away with  421A.  Everyone is silent on this. Its a boom for developers, displacing people and local businesses, gentrifying neighborhoods.  421A should be gotten rid of. It prevents more housing than it supports.  We need affordable rents for regular people, not billionaires," Rechtschaffer concluded.

"I'm here because I'm a 4th generation New Yorker
and I'm watching the city that made me being stripped away,"
noted  Sara Quinter.  "In a word, its greed," she concluded.

Organizers called for an end to vacancy decontrol and  policies that are bleeding rent  regulations away.  They noted the Mayor's Capital Improvement Improvement program allows landlords to make regular improvements to apartments, such as fixing a boiler, and increasing rents permanently.

The aim of the action was to  strengthen New York's rent laws and declare a housing emergency in New York.

Standing at the privately owned public space at 422 Ave, everyone circled up.  Why are we here, Sara Quinter, explained. This is the group's second action in recent weeks.  The first action blocked  the streets outside the governor's office and it got the governor's notice.
In four days the rent laws will expire.  This is a crisis.  If the current pattern of increasing rents continues, we'll see more people evicted.  We need rent control and a rent rollback she and several other organizers explained.

Organizers talked about why they were here.  Carmen talked about being harassed and abused by her landlords. She is the last person in her building with rent control.  And her landlord is pushing her every day.

Several people put on signs declaring "Abused," "at risk" and "displaced."

By 9 AM, a group walked over to the governor's office at 3rd avenue and 41st, some with pots and pans and others with signs.  Arriving, some chanted and others blocked the entrance to the governor's office.

“Once I pay my rent, all my moneys spent,” chanted activists.

“Fight fight fight, Housing is a right!”

“What do we want, stronger rent laws!  If we don’t get it, shut it down!” they screamed.

“Governor Cuomo, you can’t hide, we know you’re on the landlord’s side.”

Passers by cheered the  action as the chants escalated.

The police warned activists blocking the doors to the building that they would be arrested. Gradually, they moved and started arresting each activist, including one of the black protesters, who was taken down by police without warning as he carried a sign.

Carmen walked inside and talk representatives from the governor's office why there were there, giving then a flyer.   

“People are losing their homes,” Seth Tobocman repeated over and over as he was being arrested for blocking the entrances to the governor’s office. 

New York cannot remain New York if regular people cannot afford to live here. 

1 comment:

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