Brooklyn City Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Laurie Cumbo, and Assemblymembers Walter Mosley and Rodneyse Bichotte were among the lawmakers arrested following a civil disobedience rally in Albany yesterday.
The rally, which was coordinated with several Brooklyn tenant organizations, was to highlight the need to renew and strengthen rent control and stabilization laws in the city.
The following is the lawmakers remarks about their arrest and the issues involving rent laws.
Rodneyse Bichotte – I got a desk appearance for disorderly conduct. It was the first time I was ever arrested. This was a well-organized protest. The officers were very kind to us and everything went well. This was a statement. I am for renewal of rent control and rent stabilization. Not only renewal, but to make it permanent so that we don’t have to keep voting on this every two or five years. There’s also a need for stronger rent laws around MCI (Major Capital Improvements, preferential loopholes and to repeal vacancy decontrol.
Walter Mosley – “Yesterday, I along with my colleagues in the state Assembly, Senate, and New York City Council – along with several hundred advocates – took a stand and told the Governor affordable housing is a right and a priority of ours. Thousands of hard-working families depend upon the protections of rent stabilization to stay in their communities and with only a hand-full of legislative session days left, we urged the Governor to have the State Senate bring this vital issue to a floor vote immediately.”
Jumaane Williams – “Affordable housing is a right worth fighting for– a right that many New Yorkers will lose if Albany does not strengthen our City’s rent laws by June 15th. Governor Cuomo has not provided the same leadership on this issue that he has on others that are apparently more important. So yesterday, I joined hundreds of tenants and city and state elected officials to tell him that not strengthening our rent laws would be an unforgivable disgrace that the residents of this city would not forget. The same New Yorkers who are currently the only positive influence in his low poll numbers will remember inaction during his next election.
“For hours, we rallied, marched, yelled, screamed, protested, picketed and ultimately were arrested outside of Governor Cuomo’s office to send him a clear message: strengthen our rent laws or you will be to blame. It was a powerful demonstration that would not have been possible without the partnership of my fellow colleagues in government and hard work done by tenant organizations who helped organize the day.
“I engaged in an act of civil disobedience with other concerned New Yorkers because housing is a human right that Governor Cuomo is trying to limit for our neediest New Yorkers. And what is his answer to strengthening our rent laws? Raise the minimum rent from $2,500 to $2,700 before a rent-stabilized unit that becomes vacant and can be removed from the regulatory system and go to market rate. This a terrible joke. A $2,700 limit will endanger more affordable housing, not save it. Rent regulation is not just about the price of rent but about protections given to a tenant that would be lost forever.
“Governor Cuomo should realize that if our rent laws aren’t strengthened, countless families will be displaced – many of whom would enter an overcrowded, underfunded homeless shelter system. To ensure that doesn’t happen, we need to end decontrol, close preferential rent loopholes and increase the amount of possible fines for landlords found guilty of harassment and repeal vacancy deregulation.
“We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis like none we’ve seen before, and as Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, my goal is to address our city’s chronic housing shortage to ensure that New York becomes a place for all to thrive. That goal is not possible without the support of our state legislatures, so it falls on Governor Cuomo to pressure the Senate to not only renew but strengthen these laws.
“The City Council has done all we can. Additionally, the State Assembly has acted and Senate democrats are doing all they can. The only person missing is Governor Cuomo. Albany has approximately 264 hours to come together and fix this. If progress isn’t made, New Yorkers can rely on us to increase the pressure on Albany to protect our constituents and all New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs.
We deserve more, Governor, and we are waiting.”