“Cuomoville” Protest Calls Out Governor on Housing

For three days in mid-June, a coalition of housing and community organizations camped outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office in an array of sleeping bags they called “Cuomoville.”

“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis. A majority of New Yorkers are paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent, and 30 percent are paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent,” said Ava Farkas of Met Council. The protesters also included members of Community Voices Heard, New York Communities for Change, VOCAL-NY, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, the Democratic Socialists of America, Picture the Homeless, the New York Progressive Action Network, and the New York State Communist Party. 

They criticized Cuomo for making a revived version of the 421-a property-tax abatement the first piece of his five-year plan to combat homelessness. The new version, which the governor calls an “affordable housing” program, will increase the tax breaks given to developers to $2.4 billion a year. The previous version cost more that $1 billion a year, and less than 10 percent of the apartments it subsidized were below market rate. “Our governor wants to protect the right of landlords to earn profit, not protect the right of human beings to have housing,” said Estevan Bassett-Nembhard of the state Communist Party.

Others blasted the governor for blaming the city’s escalating numbers of homeless people on Mayor Bill de Blasio, and for  collaborating with the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, whose alliance with Republicans in the state Senate has blocked bills to strengthen rent regulations. Cuomo, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams said at the June 14 rally that launched Cuomoville, “did a rally to try to get everybody riled up to deal with the Republicans in Congress, but did I miss the rally when he did the same thing for the state?” 

A longer version of this article appeared in the People’s Weekly World.