AIDS Activists Protest Rent-Cap Veto

Eighteen HIV/AIDS activists, including state Sen. Tom Duane, were arrested Nov. 9 when they blocked Broadway to protest Gov. David Paterson’s veto of a bill to cap rents for low-income New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS at 30 percent of their rent. More than 200 people attended the rally, at City Hall.

“Governor Paterson vetoed a bill that would have brought New York State into line with the federal standard of capping rent at 30 percent of income for those living under the poverty level,” Gina Quattrochi of Bailey House told the Villager. “We cannot remain silent in the face of this unconscionable act.”

Paterson vetoed the bill at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s urging. Both agreed that it would be too costly to subsidize rents for the estimated 10,000 people in the city who collect Social Security disability payments for HIV/AIDS and live in private housing. The outgoing governor told Sean Barry, executive director of VOCAL New York (Voices of Community Activists and Leaders, formerly the New York City AIDS Housing Network), that he would send the Legislature a similar plan before its lame-duck session ended last month, Gay City News reported in late November.

If he did, the Legislature failed to act on it.

Paterson “was probably planning to introduce some kind of budget modification,” says Terri Smith-Caronia of Housing Works, another AIDS-activist group. “But when I asked around the Senate, they hadn’t seen it. If he hadn’t vetoed the bill, we wouldn’t be scrambling to find votes now.”

On Dec. 1, nine members of Housing Works were arrested in a sit-in at Bloomberg’s World AIDS Day Bagel Breakfast at the Brooklyn Public Library. They were protesting the mayor’s support for the veto and his cuts in funding city services for people with AIDS.

The nine arrested were dressed as giant bagels. They called themselves the “Schmear Campaign.”