More than a dozen climate and affordable housing demonstrators wound up in handcuffs Monday morning after their street demonstration outside Governor Kathy Hochul’s Midtown office brought traffic to a standstill.
Drivers were left fuming during their Monday morning commute when traffic came to a screeching halt on 41st Street and 3rd Avenue as the activists lined the roadway and blocked traffic.
Chanting and waving signs, the group refused to permit anyone from passing in hopes of having their message heard loud and clear. The looming New York State budget deadline of April 1 made many climate and housing advocates make a personal and boisterous plea to Hochul, who was not in Midtown Monday morning, to repeal the 421-a tax break.
The controversial tax code was created during the 1970s as an incentive for real-estate developers and landlords that helps lower their property tax bill if they create new multi-family residential housing. Over the years, this break continued, encouraging real-estate developers to create more residential property with a certain percentage allocated for affordable housing units (income-based apartments) along with their market rate.
The governor has shown support for this bill and has included a new section of the code (485-w) that focuses on including a high percentage of affordable units as well as lowering the area median income (AMI) depending on the number of units in a building. However, protesters at the rally believe this expensive tax break is meant to solely benefit the wealthy and will not vastly improve housing conditions in New York City.
Activists are demanding Hochul pass the All Electric Buildings Act, eliminating the use of gas in newly constructed buildings. In doing so, both the housing and climate activists say this will greatly reduce greenhouse emissions. They also added that 421-a perpetuates housing inequities by creating apartments that in the eyes of many are not truly affordable, and are only for a small percentage of the population.
One irate driver who claimed to be a city employee was so livid he confronted the crowd and demanded them to disperse. “Move! Everybody move! I work for the New York City Parks Department! Move!” The man yelled.
Chatting “Ban gas now!” and “Housing is a human right!” the blockade continued unimpeded for about 45 minutes until police officers arrived. Members of the NYPD warned the protesters they would be arrested if they continued. However, the group simply dug in their feet and took hands.
One by one 14 protesters were placed in zip ties and led away, some still clutching their banners under arms.
In response to this protest, a representative from the governor’s office stated that she is working to put forward the Affordable Neighborhoods for New Yorkers tax incentive (485-w), which would create affordable housing for the average wage standard.
“Governor Hochul’s executive budget includes bold initiatives to embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our future and we look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers,” a Governor’s spokesperson Avi Small said in a statement.