Torres, Afua Atta-Mensah Arrested Protesting Trump’s Housing Cuts

City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), Community Voices Heard (CVH) Executive Director Afua Atta-Mensah, CVH Lead Organizer Gabriel Strachota and the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood were arrested protesting President Trump’s proposed federal housing cuts Thursday.

In an act of Civil Disobedience, the group refused to stop protesting beyond police barricades during a major demonstration by thousands at Foley Square. Trump’s proposal to cut $6.2 billion in federal housing funds would decimate programs that help millions of low-income Americans keep a roof over their heads.

Community Voices Heard, a community activist organization started by single mothers on public assistance in NYC more than two decades ago, was at the forefront of the #NoCuts Coalition rally, along with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, Assemblywoman Marisol Alcantara, and the leaders of several dozen grassroots, civic and labor organizations.

If enacted, Trump’s cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would put hundreds of thousands of Americans in immediate danger of losing their homes in public housing developments or privately owned buildings. Others would continue to live in unhealthy sub-par conditions because repairs would be further delayed, and critical upgrades would be cancelled for lack of funding. Such conditions include the persistent existence of mold in NYC Housing Authority apartments, which is caused by leaky roofs and faulty pipes in buildings that are 70 years old.

“Public housing is critical affordable housing, and all levels of government should be increasing financial support, not drastically reducing it,” Alcantara said. “NYC already is the throes of a homeless crisis because so many families, and single adults, can’t afford rents. Cutting HUD funds would force many more New Yorkers, including senior citizens, veterans and the disabled, into the streets and shelters. Trump’s cuts would be crippling blow to our efforts to make New York City more affordable for working families.”

Trump’s funding cuts would cause an estimated 20% reduction in the operating subsidies to the New York City Housing Authority. Projects likely to be scrapped include replacement of old boilers, resulting in even more breakdowns, and even more days without heat or hot water. Tenants would have to find other housing after five years. Thousands of rent-subsidy vouchers would be eliminated.

NYC neighborhoods like Red Hook, Brooklyn, will be hit extremely hard by this proposal, Jill Eisenhard, Founder and Executive Director of Red Hook Initiative (RHI), said.

“It is hard to conceive how the Red Hook community will survive the proposed budget cuts when its public housing residents already live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions,” Eisenhard said. “In the past year, NYCHA has finally made progress to address apartments with critical, harmful levels of mold. We cannot afford to take a single step backward.”

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