Homeless rights advocates wound up in handcuffs on Thursday near City Hall while protesting the transfer of some 8,000 unhoused individuals from hotels to congregate shelters across New York City.
The rally led by Housing Works took place just outside on Broadway and Park Place, drawing dozens of activists just before 10 a.m. on July 29 to call out Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failures to provide safe and supportive solutions for the unhoused, shuffling them between hotels and shelters like cattle.
Housing advocates dubbed de Blasio a broken record for his repetitive phrases such as a “Recovery for all” and references to New York’s bright future, which they say ostracizes the homeless community. In response to the mayor’s “empty promises,” several organizations held the “de Blasio Broken Record” Action, during which they demanded a halt to the transferal of unhoused individuals from hotels to shelters.
They also called for immediate action on Intro. 146, a City Council bill requiring the City to pay higher amounts of rental assistance vouchers for homeless New Yorkers.
Several elected officials likewise allied with the cause such as Council member (and Democratic city comptroller nominee) Brad Lander and Assembly members Jessica González-Rojas and Harvey Epstein, joining the sign thrusting and chanting alongside those who have experienced homelessness themselves like Shams DaBaron.
“Mayor de Blasio, we are calling directly on you, and we want these things done today! We heard you say that you were thinking about them, that you were looking at them, well the time for thinking and looking has passed. We want it right now. Stop the transfers!” Lander said to a roar of cheers.
But the pleas soon transformed into cries of anger as the group launched into the roadway, blocking traffic with their bodies — doing everything they could to get the mayor’s attention.
Hunkering down on a crosswalk, advocates symbolically broke vinyl records while chanting “Housing is a human right.”
During the chaos, a food vendor zoomed onto the sidewalk in an attempt to bypass the human roadblock. Members of the NYPD immediately chased down the driver, hammering on his vehicle and swiftly placing the man under arrest at the scene.
With the situation swiftly spinning out of control after more than an hour of blocking the roadway, officers began to play a warning message for the crowd to disperse from the street or risk being arrested. The threat was ignored and the act of civil disobedience went on.
That led to police rounding up about 10 housing advocates and zip-tying them while placing them under arrest. A crowd still watching from the sidewalk cheered on their comrades as they were hauled out of sight.
This protest comes as part of a 30-day action to raise awareness for homeless rights, but whether it will change the Mayor’s stance on congregate shelters remains to be seen.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.