Tenants interrupt Hochul’s speech, call on governor to support Good Cause and withdraw LaSalle

A tenant interrupts Governor Hochul’s speech at the Sunset Park church. 
A tenant interrupts Governor Hochul’s speech at the Sunset Park church.  Photo by Jeremy Kaplan
Photo by Jeremy Kaplan

Housing Justice for All, a statewide coalition of more than 80 organizations representing tenants and homeless New Yorkers, says that tenants and community members interrupted Gov. Kathy Hochul’s speech on Sunday while addressing a Latino church in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn.

In interrupting the governor’s speech, Housing Justice for All said in a statement that tenants called on Hochul to support “basic tenant protections” and withdraw her conservative chief judge pick, Hector LaSalle.

Housing Justice for All claimed that Hochul was visiting the Sunset Park church to drum up support for LaSalle.

“I pray that you listen to tenants, and I pray that you withdraw LaSalle and stand with working class New Yorkers,” Housing Justice for All quoted Genesis Aquino, a Dominican Republic immigrant and executive director of the community activist group, Tenants and Neighbors, as calling out the governor.

“We need Good Cause Evictions, governor; I pray for you,” added Aquino before she was swiftly forced out by security, just one day before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, according to Housing Justice for All.

The coalition said Hochul was touring churches on Sunday “in the hopes of increasing support for her widely unpopular pick for chief judge, Judge Hector LaSalle, who has come under fire from moderate and progressive democrats, unions, reproductive rights groups, Latinos legal experts, and progressive organizations for his consistently conservative judicial opinions.”

“During her speech, Gov. Hochul compared LaSalle to Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Housing Justice for All claimed.

It said that, last week, the governor announced “a housing plan designed to profit her wealthy real estate donors while doing little to alleviate the housing crisis tenants and homeless New Yorkers are facing right now.

“Rents across New York City are up more than 30 percent from 2021-2022, and homelessness in NYC has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression,” Housing Justice for All said.

“Tenants and homeless New Yorkers are calling on Kathy Hochul to support the Our Homes, Our Power package, which would keep rents affordable, give all New Yorkers access to stable housing, and give tenants more power to fight for safe, decent living conditions,” it added. “The package includes Good Cause Evictions.”

Many elected officials and community activists expressed mixed reaction to Hochul’s State of the State address to achieve the New York Dream.

In her address last Tuesday, she outlined key components to make a “more affordable, more livable and safer New York.”

“Achieving the New York Dream” Agenda includes 147 bold initiatives.

They include: “New York Housing Compact” strategy to address New York’s housing crisis, build 800,000 new homes over next decade; transformational plan to strengthen mental health care, increase capacity for inpatient psychiatric treatment by 1,000 beds and add 3,500 housing units serving individuals with mental illness; and major public safety initiatives and investments to drive down gun and violent crime.

Others are: raise minimum wage annually and index to inflation, helping New Yorkers address rising cost of living; cap-and-invest program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change; $165 million in relief to more than 800,000 utility customers; and plan to make child care more affordable, accessible, and fair in New York.

“As the cost of living continues to rise for New Yorkers, immediate and long-term affordability for working families across our city and state is a vital focus,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, “We’ve fought to raise the minimum wage for over a decade, and both increasing and indexing it to inflation are crucial, as is using the reach and resources of state government to provide relief, security, and economic opportunity.

“Nowhere is this more clear than the single largest expense for New Yorkers – housing,” added the son of Grenadian immigrants. “Many of the governor’s proposals were encouraging, including setting new targets for creating hundreds of thousands of units and making it easier to create that housing statewide.

“As I argued before the speech, making these new homes income-targeted is just as important, if not more so,” Williams continued. “If the government is taking steps to encourage responsible development, whether through subsidizing or streamlining, that support should only come in exchange for deeply affordable housing.

“Additionally, no housing plan is real without including preservation strategies, and new housing without sufficient tenant protections and foreclosure prevention will not be enough to keep New Yorkers in their homes,” he said. “The progressive path forward to address the housing and homelessness crisis in our state is one that puts people over profits, communities over corporations. The housing headlines from the governor’s speech are promising, but the real challenges and fights lay ahead in the specifics, and I will continue to fight for true housing justice as these plans are moved toward action.”

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams Hochul “proposed a thoughtful State of the State address that advances housing, mental health care, and economic opportunity as key priorities.

“As New York faces a serious housing crisis that impacts the health and safety of all New Yorkers, our city and state’s leaders are all prioritizing solutions and Gov. Hochul’s plan contributes to helping ensure housing is available to New Yorkers,” she said. “We must prioritize the equitable development of more affordable housing to meet this critical need. Our health and safety are shared, and rely on the well-being of all New Yorkers.”

But the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella organization of over 200 immigration advocacy and policy groups in New York State, said the governor failed to include immigrant New Yorkers in her vision for New York in 2023 State of the State Address.

“Today, Gov. Hochul failed to present a bold and ambitious plan for New York that substantially improves the lives of immigrant New Yorkers and recognizes the challenges we face,” said NYIC Executive Director, Murad Awawdeh. “While we are grateful for Gov. Hochul’s commitments to some key programs, they are far from enough to ensure that all immigrant New Yorkers, including the over 30,000 newly arrived asylum seekers, have the support they need to integrate and thrive in New York State.

 

Tenants protest Governor Kathy Hochul’s chief judge pick, Hector LaSalle and call for tenant protection.
Tenants protest Governor Kathy Hochul’s chief judge pick, Hector LaSalle and call for tenant protection. Photo by Jeremy Kaplan

“Without a full $100M investment in the Access to Representation Act and immigration legal services, funding our families remain at risk of being cruelly separated,” he added. “Moreover, the lack of investment in health coverage for all New Yorkers, regardless of legal status, is no small oversight in light of the ongoing pandemic and the contributions of our communities to keeping New York open for business.”

Nishat Tabassum, manager of the non-profit The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition, claimed that Hochul’s State of the State was “packed with party favors for her wealthy donors, from tax breaks for big developers to giveaways for big businesses.

“Yet, the governor had not a word for the thousands of workers who kept the state running during the darkest days of the pandemic: the state’s hundreds of thousands of excluded workers, who were left out of any COVID-era assistance and are vulnerable to financial ruin if a crisis strikes again,” he said. “The silence is deafening. Excluded workers are an essential part of our communities. They are street vendors, small-job construction workers, domestic workers, workers rebuilding their lives after incarceration, freelance writers, artists, photographers. They contribute hundreds of millions of dollars every year in taxes, and increasingly, they’re a key driver of our state’s economy.”

Another non-profit group, the Coverage for All coalition, said it was “deeply disappointed by the governor’s failure to address the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from health coverage because of their immigration status.

“After three years of a global pandemic that hit immigrant communities so hard, it must be lost on no one that every single New Yorker needs access to health coverage and care,” said the group in a statement. “The governor must adjust her priorities and support passing Coverage for All legislation to expand coverage and care, regardless of immigration status, as part of this year’s budget.”

Make the Road New York Co-Executive Director Theo Oshiro, said the governor’s speech “fell far short of what’s needed for immigrants, communities of color, and working families across the state.

“While paying lip service to tackling the very real affordability crisis that New Yorkers face, the governor again failed to mention and support crucial measures for which our communities have been clamoring,” Oshiro said. “As it relates to the current budget process, we are particularly concerned that she ignored the need to pass good cause protections for tenants, full inclusion of excluded workers in unemployment, inclusion of immigrants in health coverage, and raising taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers to invest in our New York.”

But the governor told New Yorkers in her State of the State address that, “after three very difficult, tragic, painful, years, I’m proud to say that the State of our State is strong, but we have work to do.

“Last year, in the face of immense hardship and uncertainty, we endured,” she said. “We proved to the world that New York may get knocked down. But we always, always, get back up.

“Because of that, I am optimistic about the upcoming year and the future,” she added. “We still have some big challenges ahead, but the fight to do what is right is always worth pursuing.

“I’m steeled by the knowledge that if we come together, in this pivotal moment, and if those of us in positions of power do what needs to be done for the people of New York our shared potential is limitless,” Hochul continued. “As I said in my Inaugural Address: When we are united, there is no stopping us. And when it comes to the mountains yet to be climbed, we are ready to scale them this year because of the peaks we already summitted in the past.”

The governor said that, in 2022, the state made historic investments to strengthen and upgrade infrastructure; build a world-class public transit system; create strong public education; confront climate change; fortify the healthcare system; help small businesses recover from COVID; and spur economic development across the state.

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