We’re almost two weeks into October, which means that twelve days ago, rent was due for New Yorkers. Due to the surge in unemployment that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of tenants have been unable to pay their rents on time and were counting on an extension of Governor Cuomo’s eviction moratorium. However, the governor refused to fully comply. Instead, towards the end of September, he elected to extend the provisions of the Safe Harbor Act to pre-COVID housing court cases. These provisions do not cover tenants facing holdover evictions, meaning that since October, thousands of people have been forced out of their homes despite virtually no change in the status of the pandemic and its effects on New Yorkers. Additionally, the legislation does not prevent landlords from harassing tenants through “frivolous litigation”, leaving the rent crisis still largely unresolved as people attempt to carry on their daily lives.
Since the beginning of October, individuals and grassroots organizations have been marching in protest, calling for a total moratorium on evictions. New York’s Housing Justice for All, an organization made up of over seventy organizations fighting for statewide housing, has led marches and standing protests each week of this month, some of which have resulted in arrests.
One of my personal observations is the lack of substantial coverage from the perspective of those protesting. If anything, there has been some misleading reporting, with headlines claiming the Cuomo is extending his moratorium until January 2021, which is clearly an incredibly conditional statement. In any case, the much bigger story in the world of New York housing since the beginning of the pandemic has been the rapidly spiraling prices of real estate due to the mass exodus of upper-middle-class and wealthy homeowners from the city, especially Manhattan. As this group heads to the suburbs, several major media outlets and countless prominent social media influencers have focused on the idea of a rapidly emptying New York City. At the same time, New York’s poorer tenant population is having its homes forcibly taken. These people have nowhere else to turn, and in many cases, they have been in the city much longer than those who are wealthy enough to move away. It is truly shameful that these tenants receive such a lack of consideration and proper justice from both the government and the media.