By John Furman
THE EMPIRE STATE STRIKES BACK
The 29th People’s “Resistance” State Of the State
Albany, N.Y. In this month’s column, I am reporting on two events held this week in Albany which advocated for the interests of low income and working people in Central New York.
The 29th Annual People’s State of the State rally took place at the State Capitol on January 2. Organizations from across New York State joined together in the freezing cold for what has become the long-standing “unofficial” kick-off of the legislative session in Albany. The groups focused on the crisis facing many struggling New Yorkers that will be made worse as a result of the recently passed federal tax plan. They also noted that the President and Congress are now shifting their focus to massive budget cuts and the need for New York State’s elected officials to fight back and protect the neediest amongst us is more important than ever.
New York State and its elected officials need to stand up and support programs and legislation that help to lift our fellow New Yorkers out of poverty. New York needs to lead the way in showing the nation that we value those in need and will not turn our back on them despite what the federal government may do. The groups said they will be working to protect against any federal cuts to programs and will be holding members of New York’s Congressional delegation accountable.
The groups strongly support movement on a variety of issues including the Homeless MOU, Hunger – HPNAP, single-payer health care, recapturing part of the federal tax windfall to wealthy New Yorkers, job creation, support for a quality public education, wage theft, protecting our seniors and mitigating the impact of climate change on the poor.
The groups pointed out that New York sends some $48 billion more in revenue to the federal government then it receives back in services each year. That money needs to stay in New York and fund the programs that will help the most vulnerable.
“We implore the Governor and the Legislature to remember those they are sent to serve – the people. The upcoming legislative session will have to deal with incredible need in the face of a $4.5 billion budget gap. The 2.7 million food insecure New Yorkers, the 1.2 million who lack health insurance, the 90,000 who are homeless, the million children who live in poverty – these are real people suffering intolerable hardships. We cannot forget their struggles. New York prides itself on being called the Empire State, yet we lead the nation in income inequality. Nearly one-third of New Yorker’s with a disability live in poverty. NYC ranks first in the nation in homelessness. This is intolerable and does not reflect the heart of New Yorkers. Against this backdrop, we need our Governor and State leaders to protect those in need from harmful federal cuts,” stated Susan Zimet, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS. “Maybe we should rethink our financial commitment to the federal government. Like Trump says – America overpays the United Nations for the services- New York can say the same thing to DC. Let’s keep our money here and take care of our fellow New Yorkers!”
Groups sponsoring the event include Citizen Action of New York, Hunger Action Network of NYS, Faith and Hunger Network, Fiscal Policy Institute, NYS Council of Churches, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, Campaign for New York Health, Alliance for Quality Education, NYS Episcopal Public Policy Network, Strong Economy for All Coalition, Sisters of St. Joseph, St Vincent De Paul Social Justice, Mt Vernon United Tenants, NY Statewide Senior Action Council, JustleadershipUSA, Capital District Area Labor Federation, Metro NY Health Care For All and PAUSE.
Upstate and Downstate Groups Unity to Advocate for Renter Rights
Hundreds of tenants and homeless people from across New York State gathered in Albany today to protest Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address and called on the Governor to build more affordable housing, repair public housing, and pass stronger tenant protections and rent laws.
A new group called the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance has been formed to unite Upstate and Downstate tenants to push for housing reforms and increased funding. They will sponsor digital and print ads as well as canvass and conduct town halls at the start of the new legislative session.
“Tenants are a potent, well-organized constituency, and they are telling Governor Cuomo that the Housing Justice for All campaign is real and is not going away,” said Delsenia Glover, Alliance for Tenant Power campaign manager.
While New York City has a high percentage of renters compared to other parts of the state—68 percent of units were occupied by renters—other cities also have significant numbers of renters, with more than 60 percent of housing occupied by renters in Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse. About fifty percent of the units in Utica are occupied by renters.
The coalition is urging the passage of “just cause eviction” laws, which would give tenants more protections, and the establishment of more housing courts throughout the state. The coalition is advocating for laws to prevent landlords from discriminating against people who pay their rent with public assistance or housing vouchers. Advocates are seeking more funding for public housing modernization from the state and to expedite the construction of 20,000 new units of supportive housing.
The coalition supports the passage of Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi’s proposed home stability support program, which would create a statewide rental assistance program to help renters who qualify for public assistance to avoid eviction.
For more information: Visit https://www.housingjusticeforall.org/#about On Twitter, follow the Hashtags #CuomosHousingCrisis and #HousingJustice4All. Also, contact the Central New York Citizen Action at firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.cnycia.org.