Bronx residents implored state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins at a rally on Wednesday morning to extend the soon-to-be-expired eviction moratorium through June 2022.
Chants of “Fight, fight, fight! Housing is a human right!” could be heard emanating from outside the Bronx Housing Court at 1118 Grand Concourse on Wednesday morning, where tenants, members of the Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA)—a program from New Settlement’s membership-driven tenant organizing project—and advocates demanded the state eviction moratorium be prolonged as further rent relief money is distributed to New Yorkers who are at risk of losing their homes.
Watched by a blockade of court officers who formed in the building’s entranceway, protesters laid out body bags to symbolize the lives potentially put at risk with the impending flood of evictions to come after Aug. 31, if moratorium laws are not strengthened and extended.
“We cannot see that virus, but that virus sees us and touches us, and it kills us. What the landlords are trying to do today is to kill you by putting you out into the street! That ain’t right and we are going to send a message to the Supreme Court and to the landlords, that we are not having it! You got kids here today,” said Randy Phillip, a member of CASA.
While some demonstrators displayed signs calling for rent to be canceled, children in attendance clung to their parents’ hands, signifying what advocates state are the most vulnerable victims caught between the crossfire of the looming evictions and economic crisis.
Tenants were enraged over the slow rollout of federal rental relief from the state — just about $114 million of the more than $2 billion allocated to New York state has been distributed thus far.
Even elected officials there to support the protest were confronted over the slow distribution, and some protesters demanded that they cancel rent completely — something that’s not likely to happen.
The eviction moratorium expires on Aug. 31, which means that renters who are behind in their rent are in jeopardy of facing eviction proceedings. Some advocates claimed that less than 5% of those who applied to the ERAP have received aid.
But Bronx state Senator Gustavo Rivera laid the blame at the feet of outgoing Governor Andrew Cuomo, and said that believes things will be fixed once the scandal-scarred chief executive leaves office on Aug. 23.
“Let’s take one second to celebrate that we will no longer have to deal with the guy that did not do the ERAP correctly,” Rivera said. “Goodbye Cuomo! The money that they were supposed to send us because of the ERAP program we approved, Cuomo messed that up because he was too worried about other things.”
Rivera, along with those in attendance, called upon the soon-to-be Governor Kathy Hochul to repair what protesters call Cuomo’s negligence.
“I hope that the new governor calls us back to session immediately,” Rivera said.
Assembly Member Karines Reyes concurred with Rivera, stating that their efforts to pass protections continue to not be fulfilled, leaving New Yorkers to remain vulnerable.
“We passed the excluded workers fund, they have yet to receive any money. We passed the ERAP, they have to receive any money. How can we allow this eviction moratorium to expire if every measure we have put in place to protect our constituents has yet to come to fruition?” Reyes inquired.
Reyes said that Hochul could simply extend the moratorium upon taking office with an executive order.
Attendees culminated the rally with a march while continuing to chant, “End it with the flick of a pen!”