April 13, 2023, By Bill Parry
With the New York State budget nearly two weeks late and negotiations between Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature struggling to move forward, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led a rally in Astoria to hopefully influence the final budget.
The elected officials on Wednesday, April 13, urged state legislators to reject Hochul’s attempts to roll back bail reforms and fight for policies to support working-class New Yorkers who struggle with skyrocketing rents, including Good Cause eviction restrictions, the Build Public Renewables Act, and taxing the rich.
“Right now we are experiencing levels of housing insecurity and homelessness like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression,” Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd at Athens Square. “Homelessness isn’t a profound mystery. It has to do with the cost of housing. And the more that the cost of rent skyrockets, the more we’re going to see runaway levels of homelessness in New York. So when we talk about fighting for the people, fighting to pass Good Cause eviction is essential. We have to push Governor Hochul to make sure to include it in the budget.”
Queens saw more than 20,000 evictions filed last year, impacting almost 1 in 20 renter households across the borough.
A report released by Douglas Elliman showed that the March median rental price in northwest Queens increased 13.9% to $3,493 compared to $3,000 last year.
State Senator Julia Salazar of Brooklyn, who introduced Good Cause eviction protections in Albany, came to join Ocasio-Cortez in Astoria.
“I am absolutely obsessed with it and the reason that I’m obsessed with it is that it is related to public safety, it is related to leaving our city and state better than what was given to us,” Salazar said. “It is outrageous that thousands of people in our state who are experiencing homelessness, in the wealthiest state in the country, in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, it doesn’t need to be this way.”
Her legislation would require landlords to demonstrate a justification for “good cause” for evicting tenants in unregulated units and would protect them from exorbitant rate hikes, restricting rent increases to either 3% or 1.5 times the inflation rate, whichever is higher.
“As we recover from the aftermath of the pandemic, it is even more essential that we build a State budget that centers the lives of everyday New Yorkers. We receive daily calls from our neighbors who are being evicted, new homeless shelters are opened weekly, and school nurses are caring for students who are struggling with malnourishment,” Councilwoman Julie Won said. “We must move forward, not backward on bail reform, good cause eviction, Public Renewables Act, taxing the rich, and a new deal for CUNY and tuition-free SUNY.”
At Wednesday’s rally, Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán drilled down on taxing the rich.
“New York State is home to over one hundred billionaires and the site of literally billions of financial transactions every single day, so clearly there is enough money here for all the resources and services New Yorkers deserve and need to thrive,” Cabán said. “That means abundant, permanently affordable social housing, universal childcare, a New Deal for CUNY and tuition-free SUNY, a Green New Deal for NY, and the Fix The MTA plan to freeze fares, increase frequency, and begin to phase in free bus service. There’s plenty to go around, if we stop letting the wealthy few hog it all.”
Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani said the days of letting poor Black and brown New Yorkers “rot on Rikers Island so we can get a couple of crumbs elsewhere” in the budget are over.
“Gov. Hochul says she wants to make New York safer, more affordable, and more livable, but her proposals would do the exact opposite. They price working-class New Yorkers out of public transit, higher education, and the housing market, all while putting innocent people behind bars and letting the Mike Bloombergs and the wealthiest corporations continue to make out like bandits,” Mamdani said. “We should be investing in the public goods our constituents depend on, like more frequent MTA service and a universally accessible bus system, Good Cause protections for market-rate tenants, and truly public renewables. We have a clear choice: we can give working-class New Yorkers the relief they deserve, or we can let the 1% dictate the future of our state and leave the rest of us behind.”
State Senator Kristen Gonzalez said that in her first three months in Albany, it became “abundantly clear” that there are two competing visions for what New York should look like, one led by the Governor and corporations and another led by everyday New Yorkers.
“To truly keep New Yorkers safe, we must reject any attempts to criminalize our communities. Real safety comes from investing in the resources that everyday New Yorkers need such as stable housing, clean air and water, and affordable public transit,” Gonzalez said. “Our movement is creating a vision for this state that doesn’t rely on fossil fuel infrastructure, that protects renters and the working class, and that prioritizes equity over the needs of the 1 percent. We invite all Albany leaders to join us in this vision.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.