Calling on Gov. David Paterson to pass a critical AIDS housing bill before he leaves office, 18 New York AIDS activists sat down on Broadway today, blocking traffic at Barclay Avenue and refusing to move before police arrested them and hauled them away.
Among the 18 arrested were Housing Works CEO and President Charles King; New York State Senator Tom Duane; and two other Housing Works employees. The arrests took place after a rowdy 300-person rally at City Hall Park hosted by a coalition of AIDS organizations, including VOCAL/NYCAHN, Citiwide Harm Reduction, Bailey House, Harlem United, Housing Works and Praxis Housing Initiatives.
All are demanding that Paterson work with the legislature to enact the 30 percent rent cap bill before he leaves office.
“Elections have passed. It’s time to stop the politics and do what’s right by impoverished New Yorkers who are living with AIDS,” said King. “The governor and the legislature must come up with a plan within the next six weeks to fund the 30 percent rent cap. Failing that, it is the responsibility of both the Assembly and the Senate to override the Governor’s veto.”
The legislation would help an estimated 10,000 low-income New Yorkers who receive rental assistance from the HIV/AIDS Services Administration by capping their rent at 30 percent of disability income, a benefit already extended to almost all other individuals in subsidized housing.
Chanting “AIDS housing saves lives! Keep our rent at 30 percent!” protesters streamed across Broadway. Carrying an enormous black banner, they placed themselves in front of several buses, stopping traffic before police handcuffed them.
Most of those arrested today are executive directors at New York’s largest AIDS service organizations. Among those in cuffs were Gina Quattrocchi (Bailey House), Sean Barry (VOCAL/NYCAHN), Stephanie Howze (Harlem United), Robert Cordero (Citiwide Harm Reduction), Diane Arneth (Community Health Action of Staten Island), Jennifer Flynn (Health Gap), Carolina Lopez (New York Harm Reduction Educators) and Miguel Mendez (Housing Works). Police also arrested Assemblyman Jose Rivera.
Paterson stunned activists in September when he vetoed the bill, despite his past promises to sign it. After, in an interview with Gay City News, he expressed interest in working with the legislature to push the measure through. Yesterday, the Update blog detailed the options for passing the bill before Paterson leaves office in January.
The rally was the fourth in a series of protests and press conferences designed to shame the governor into getting the bill passed. In late September, police broke up a raucous protest outside his Manhattan office, arresting five AIDS activists.
“We are going to continue to raise public awareness about the cruelty and fiscal irresponsibility of rejecting this affordable housing bill,” said Duane just before his arrest. “I hope that when Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson use extra soft toilet paper that they’ll think of people in abject poverty living on less than $12 per day who can’t afford the basic necessities to get by.”
Wanda Hernandez, a VOCAL/NYCAHN board member, pays more than 70 percent of her disability income toward rent. Listen to her speak at the rally and watch protestors march across Broadway.blog comments powered by Disqus