Advocates hold independent budget forum outside Governor’s Midtown office

While Governor Kathy Hochul sat down with legislatures in Albany Tuesday to discuss the state budget, New Yorkers rallied outside her Midtown office to share where they demand funds should be allocated.

The sidewalk outside 633 Third Avenue became a forum for both a public budget discussion and a platform from which a diverse group of New Yorkers appealed for economic backing on Feb. 15. City tenants, students, immigrants, and even parents begged for the governor to support their needs. Hosted by Make the Road New York, the action looked to seek greater healthcare access for immigrants, along with housing protections and more.

Akin to an official budget discussion, the group highlighted several key aspects of their lives they feel needs major and immediate improvement. These issues, they say, greatly affect the lives of immigrants and the Black and Brown communities.

Advocates brought a board listing their demands. Photo by Dean Moses

“Every day I live under stress not knowing what to do because my landlord has already warned me that he will try to evict me. Every day that passes I am more worried about being left on the street, and this is the reality for thousands of tenants across the state because we do not have any housing protections,” Maria Leon said. “We need the Governor to put tenants first. Our state legislature must pass Good Cause Eviction legislation this year to avoid an eviction crisis that will only exacerbate an already fragile housing shelter system.”

Good Cause Eviction legislation–introduced by State Senator Julia Salazar–is a bill that would prevent no-fault evictions (a landlord cannot evict an occupant without a justifiable reason) and establishes tenant protections and the right to automatic lease renewal (in certain cases). This in turn would stop exponential rent increases when a lease is renewed (3% or 150% of the inflation rate, whichever is the higher amount).

Make the Road New York also advocated for the protections of children. Photo by Dean Moses

However, it isn’t merely housing rights advocates hope to see monetarily reinforced. Make the Road New York are also urging the state to expand universal childcare and provide $3 billion in aid to be added to the Excluded Workers fund, as well as meaningful protections such as excluded no more–permanent protections for undocumented workers, self-employed New Yorkers and cash earners—health coverage for all, street vendor legalization, and the passage of the Empire Act.

“I was devastated when I received a message from the Department of Labor telling me that my application for the Excluded Workers Fund had been denied due to lack of funds,” Wilfredo Zavala said. “I’m here today to demand $3 billion for the Excluded Workers Fund so that every worker who could be eligible for assistance has access to it, and a permanent solution that will provide compensation to workers like me who lose their job or income and are not ineligible for unemployment insurance.”