More than 100 New Yorkers marched the streets of the Upper East Side on Wednesday, chanting, “Housing is a human right. Fight! Fight! Fight!”
The march to Gracie Mansion, which was lead by activist Nathylin Flowers Adesegun of VOCAL-NY, was a call to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio dedicate 30,000 units of affordable housing for the homeless.
Adesegun, who recently confronted the mayor at his Park Slope gym, spoke from her own experience of being evicted from her Flatbush apartment of 34 years.
“I am an example of someone who fell between the cracks. When I first moved here, everything was low-income,” she said. “My rent went from $475 to $1,319.16 a month, which I could never pay. Everything in the city is becoming affordable housing. I cannot afford what the mayor or Beyoncé could afford.”
In 2017, de Blasio announced his Housing New York 2.0 plan, which aims to secure 300,000 affordable homes by 2026 with 5 percent (15,000) dedicated to the homeless. The House Our Future NY Campaign, along with more than 50 organizations, argue for more. They want the mayor to set aside at least 10 percent, or 30,000 homes, for the homeless, with 24,000 of those new construction.
“If he really wanted to show that he cares about homeless New Yorkers, expanding the set-aside from 15,000 to 30,000 units is the very least he could do. We won’t stop until we have homes," Adesegun said.
Lonnie Shepherd, who is a former homeless New Yorker, has been living in her new apartment for only two weeks.
“As a mayor, de Blasio represents New Yorkers. Over 63,000 of them are living on the streets or shelters,” said Shepherd, “We’re only asking for 10 percent; he can have the other 90 percent for whatever else.”
Another New Yorker, Felix Guzman, who is homeless, said there’s a need for low-income housing rather than affordable.
“This is New York City. How do we call ourselves the greatest city in the world if we continue to hide the problems we face everyday?” Guzman said. “We need housing. Not affordable housing — we need low-income housing for those trying to escape the prison of poverty. We need change, we need to be treated with humanity and have our dignity respected."
Advocates also had a challenge for de Blasio: spend a month in a homeless shelter.
“You don’t understand what it’s like, until you’re actually there,” Shepherd said.