At Andrew’s salon, Greg told me about an action he was working on:
Housing x Climate Justice Direct Action starting 28,29,30. This crisis is too big for just one day.
Ahead of the NYS budget deadline, NYCC and New York Housing Justice For All were pushing a range of bills and issues, involving housing and climate, including, Good Cause Eviction, the Dirty Buildings Bill, Excluded Workers and pushing the Climate Emergency to the top of the media's attention. All part of a much larger collaboration, around climate-housing.
Excited about the link between global and local issues and problems, forging new coalitions and collaborations, I joined everyone Sunday for a Direct Action Training going over the scenario on 3/27.
Alice Hu, from NYCC, and Greg Schwedock, were leading the training, tracing the Housing Justice policy demands.
New York Communities for Change used to be ACORN, says Hu; the organization is rooted in direct action, one of the most powerful tools we have. Our non-violent disobedient bodies create a tension that is known to compel decision makers to reply, says Hu, seemingly paraphrasing from Letter from a Birmingham Jail, the manifesto and users manual of direct action. Charles King used it in training us for direct action at CityWide Harm Harm Reduction, before actions years ago. The idea is putting our bodies on the line for something important, something powerful. In this case, we were talking about linking Housing Justice and Climate Justice, two driving forces in cities. Without one you can’t have the other. In our case, it means linking climate demands with a clear articulate housing component around excluded workers and climate refugees and good cause eviction laws. Both these issues have subsequently been jettisoned from the Governor’s agenda and budget. The Governor’s Budget is due April 1. Budgets are moral documents. We are pushing for a ban on gas use for new construction, reducing emissions in new construction, as well as repealing 421A, a tax break for developers from the 1970’s that cost the city billions, approximately 22. We need social housing says Alice, permanent affordable housing, not the paltry low income affordable housing available, if one averages in Michael Bloomberg’s income into measurements for mean income. Affordable to whom?
All year we’ve worked with New York Communities for Change, my union, the Professional Staff Congress, and others in the CUNY Rising Alliance to move the governor to support education for CUNY and SUNY, an investment for people, for communities.
Last Wednesday we were in Albany, lobbying for this.
We were doing the same thing Monday for climate and housing:
We would meet at Shakeshack at 830 AM on 40th and 3rd Ave.
Freezing winds, we, supporters from New York Communities for Change, Food and Water Watch, and Extinction Rebellion NYC, huddled in, getting ready for the action, chanting along with a band:
“People over profit.
Planet over profit.”
Some chants involved the climate / gas ban.
“Ban gas now, Hochul!”
“No More gas, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil.”
Others involved housing and repeal of the 421-a tax abatement, although they were harder to chant:
“No more landlord tax breaks, we need homes not real estate.”
By 930 we made our way to the street, blocking traffic.
Some cheered; more jeered, trying to intimidate us.
“I’m from the parks department” one man screamed, leaping from his car, menacing, leading other drivers to move closer to hit us.
You’ll lose your job if you do that, said one of our legal observers.
Ken led him down the street.
Still no police, with dozens of us in the street, chanting, wind howling.
Then, one, then two, then almost a dozen police sirens showed up.
Warnings followed; we would be arrested if we stayed.
And one by one we were pulled away by the police, sent to a police van.
My arresting officer pulled my hat almost below my eyes.
Plastic cuffs behind my back in the police van, I greeted my comrades, a few who’d never been arrested before. I knew others from countless actions. My hands behind my back, I thought of Freddie Gray’s "rough ride" in 2016, leaving him with a broken spinal cord after a ride in a police van.
It took two vans to hold the 14 arrestees, arrested after
blocking the avenue in front of the governor's office in Manhattan for approximately 60 minutes.
Down we rode to the 7th Precinct in the Lower East Side, where we sang and told stories, unpacking the state of the world, wondering if we were having an effect.
Word from Albany was that representatives had heard about our actions.
Forms were filled out.
Shoe laces taken, and we were taken to the holding cells.
Claustrophobia always kicks in when the cell is closed. I think of King and company, my friends from there years I’ve spent time with in here.
We talked about the difference between aids activism and climate activism, different kinds of grief impacting us in different ways, many of us consumed with Climate grief, seeming to imperil action in the face of ongoing ecological loss related to the changing climate.
Losing their friends, AIDS activists turned grief into action.
It feels like visible, but very much as dangerous with the climate, probably more.
Excition is forever.
Sitting in the cell, I thought of being here in the spring of 1999 after a garden action and arrests.
And them somehow, all the actions flashed across my mind, arrests with the Fed Up Queers remembering Matthew Shepard in 1998,
Taking at bust a the Disney store in a wave of absurdist defiance before the Battle of Seattle in 1999.
Fights to save the gardens, the police telling us Giuliani said to put us through the system after a developer bulldozed Esperanza Community Garden in Feb 2000,
Getting arrested without a warning outside the Carlyle Group in 2003,
Being picked up by plain clothes officers in 2004 during the Republican National Convention,
For throwing a paper airplane in Union Square with Rev Billy,
Going Albany and DC with Housing Works, fighting for HIV housing, harm reduction services and treatment, and hanging out with Bob Kohler and Keith Cylar,
Standing with my union brothers and sisters fighting the war on education, striving for a fair contract.
On and on and on, through the dozens of arrests in the Trump years, saving the Affordable Care Act, through a waves of nonviolent civil disobedience, for voting rights and the build back better bills in the Biden years that seemed to amount to nothing.
Fighting pipelines with Sane Energy Project in Peekskill,
With VOCAL in front of the Governor's office in 2017,
With Extinction Rebellion in 2019 calling for a climate emergency,
on and on and on, direct action through time.
Winning, not always winning, making friends, expanding a community of resistance.
Still in a quiet lonely jail cell with the father of one of the organizers, we chatted and napped and chatted and napped and hoped we were moving the dial just a little bit toward something better in this world.
I told jokes and meditated and chatted about past actions we’ve been in together.
And we wondered what it will take to wake the passers by to the realities of the climate crisis?
We hate to disrupt traffic, but won’t rising tides do the same?
There can be no better business climate in a flood?
The problem is
Our means of production is fueling the crisis says Richard Wolf.
Our targets, tax breaks for developers and restrictions on gas in new buildings, require business to change.
Maybe it will happen?
It has to.
We were only in the cell for a few hours, before the police released us, giving us court dates, etc.
A few of us chatted about the action, young people our of college, elders in their eighth decade all taking part in their first direct actions.
And so the merry go round continues.
In the meantime, it looks like our efforts in Albany are making headway, one step up, two…?
City and State.com report:
“Hochul has proposed, or a “New Deal” for CUNY and SUNY that both chambers backed in their one-house budget resolutions. Hochul might not back the plan’s call for tuition-free college, but she might warm up to other aspects like a push to help deteriorating campuses fund repairs. One area of agreement is expanding the Tuition Assistance Program to cover incarcerated people, but mayoral control and other contentious issues might have to wait until the second half of the legislative session.
The governor and legislators agree in principle on passing a mandate that all new buildings be fully electric sometime in the 2020s. There is more agreement on funding state climate efforts through a bond act that would go before voters this fall. Hochul proposed $4 billion. Legislators want more. Plastics might not be the most exciting topic in budget talks, but there is a good chance that New York will include a provision that would increase manufacturer responsibility for paying for the disposal of their totally-not-biodegradable products.
Affordable housing plays a big role in Hochul’s budget, along with the Legislature’s proposals. Still, differences remain as the clock runs out before the budget deadline. Notably, the governor proposed a replacement to the current 421-a tax incentive for developers to build affordable housing. It’s set to expire this year, and Hochul proposed the 485-w program, which made some tweaks to the current tax break. Lawmakers, however, aren’t on board with the plan. They also have disagreement over converting commercial buildings to housing. Hochul has her own proposal, while lawmakers prefer to focus on expanding and funding the existing House Our Neighbors with Dignity Act passed last year.”
Photographer Ken Schles posted the most succinct summary of our action.
· New York
As NY State budget negotiations come to a head in Albany, housing and climate activists blocked Third Avenue today in front of @govkathyhochul ’s office in Midtown Manhattan during the AM rush. 14 people were arrested.
Advocates united for this action because housing equity and climate justice issues are inexorably linked with powerful monied interests throwing roadblocks against change up in Albany.
Among their demands was an end to 421-A tax subsidies for real estate developers and investors, a tax incentive program instituted the 1970s that has dynamically shaped NYC’s housing landscape, making it a tax haven for the rich and ultra-wealthy, gentrifying neighborhoods and creating a crisis of affordable housing. Current tax breaks cost the city about $1.4 billion in lost tax revenue annually.
As a new program is being negotiated in Albany, the governor proposed a system to replace 421-A that was essentially unchanged. Housing advocates demand the program be scrapped for something that will alleviate chronic housing shortages that are gutting NY’s livability standards and causing rents to skyrocket.
Last year 107,510 different homeless adults and children slept in the New York City shelter system. This included 31,947 homeless children, many from working families.
A second demand was for a state-wide gas ban that conforms to NYC Local Law 154, which institutes a gas ban by 2024 in new construction, requiring all new buildings to utilize electricity for heat and appliances.
Earlier the Governor proposed allowing the state to glide into 2027 before instituting a gas ban state-wide, but gave no reason for pushing off so far into the future, effectively causing NY to miss targets put into law by the CLCPA, a 2019 law requiring New York to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030/85% by 2050.
The CLCPA also created the Climate Action Council to develop a scoping plan of recommendations to meet emission targets and place New York on a path toward carbon neutrality. Its recently released proposal says 1-2MM homes need to be electrified by 2030 to meet CLCPA mandates, a deadline that will be unreachable unless more urgent action is taken.
#PeopleBeforeProfits #ChangeTheSystemNotTheClimate #HousingJusticeIsClimateJustice New York Communities for Change Food & Water Watch Housing Justice for AllExtinction Rebellion NYCClimate Clock350 NYC Governor Kathy Hochul #repeal421a Carl E. Heastie Andrea Stewart-Cousins
“As the state budget deadline nears, activists, along with impacted New Yorkers and community leaders, call on Governor Hochul and the state legislature to repeal the costly 421-a tax break for wealthy developers and pass the All Electric Buildings Act, which would eliminate the use of gas in newly constructed buildings, dramatically reducing greenhouse emissions.
The repeal of 421-a and the creation of all-electric buildings are crucial for tackling the housing and climate crises that impact millions of New Yorkers.
“An intersectional housing and climate justice disruptive direct action project. Business-as-usual hasn't been working for most New Yorkers. COVID-19 has wrecked our communities and shown us how inhumanely and incompetently our governments respond to emergencies. Meanwhile, as the latest IPCC report details, the climate emergency is bringing even greater devastation very soon. Renters remain at the mercy of their landlords on whether they can stay in their homes each year, while developers continue to build housing that's out of reach for many people. Numerous workers, whose labor sustains and advances our state's communities, are afforded no basic safety nets by that same state's government. And in the face of bone-crushingly terrifying climate forecasts, Kathy Hochul's New York still refuses to take no-brainer simple steps like slashing pollution from buildings in time. Advocacy-as-usual isn't enough anymore. Calling your representatives, holding marches, or doing voter outreach are important, but they haven't won us the transformative responses we need to see in the face of extraordinary crisis. We're at a make-it-or-break-it point in history, and it's time to up the ante. That's why we're embarking on a campaign of disruptive, sustained nonviolent direct action and putting our very bodies on the line to force our politicians to respond. And what better time to start than this month, right before Governor Kathy Hochul and the state legislature decide next year's budget and choose whose interests to prioritize? If decision-makers won't get their shit together to take care of us and stop climate catastrophe, we'll give them no choice but to care! New York State: house us, support us, and lead or we drown! What? To kick our campaign off, climate activists around New York State are partaking in several days of sustained disruptive, nonviolent direct action in New York City at the end of March to force the governor and legislature to take care of us as we weather these intersecting crises. We're drawing the attention of the press and the public to demand that our decision-makers: Pass Good Cause Eviction (protecting tenants from exorbitant rent hikes and being unfairly refused a lease renewal) Repeal 421-a (removing a tax break for developers building mostly-market rate housing that cost the state $1.7 billion in revenue last year) Pass Excluded No More (installing a permanent, $3.1 billion annual fund for workers, such as undocumented workers, excluded from existing state safety nets) Pass All Electric Buidling Act (mandating a gas ban in new construction starting in 2024—buildings account for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State, while New York's building emissions are the highest in the whole country!) Our actions are happening at a critical moment: April 1 is when our state government finalizes our public budget for the coming year. Also, after that point, legislators will focus less on policymaking and more on their upcoming primary election fights this June. In short: this is the month to throw down, or else we lose our best opportunity.
14 activists representing New York Communities for Change, Food and Water Watch, and Extinction Rebellion NYC were arrested at the protest after blocking the avenue in front of the governor's office in Manhattan for approximately 60 minutes.”