Don’t Pay Rent in May, Tenant Activists Say


New York City housing activists on Thursday urged all local tenants to not pay their rent on May 1, even if they can afford it.

The groups, Housing Justice For All and New York Communities For Change led a remote press conference to promote their “May Day: Can’t Pay!” campaign. In the campaign, they demanded that Governor Cuomo cancel rent and freeze rent rates for the duration of the pandemic.

“If you can’t pay the rent on May 1st you are not alone,” leaders wrote in a campaign document. “We’re stronger together and now is the time for tenants to act collectively. Millions not paying rent doesn’t build power by itself; we only build power by making our individual actions public and collective! By joining this movement, we are making a coordinated demand for relief.”

Currently, the only rent-related law passed because of the COVID-19 pandemic is the suspensions of all eviction processes for 90 days in New York. However, the organizations argue that once those 90 days are done, tenants who haven’t paid the past 3 months still risked eviction  because of the mounting rend debt.

“When this is all over, it’s gonna take time for the financial situation to start generating back,” said a member of NYCC, Donette Leftord. “We will never get a job for a long period of time…How can we then make up for three months’ rent, that is in the back, with money we’re not gonna have, that we’re never gonna have.”

They also criticized the recent $2 trillion stimulus bill because it didn’t help undocumented people. But also criticized the base amount of money people will receive claiming that it wasn’t enough for people to live on, especially in New York. Another member of NYCC, Winsome Pendergas pointed out that even studio apartments here cost around $1,500.

Queens lawmaker, State Sen. Michael Gianaris proposed a bill for a 90-day rent suspension back in March, which is currently under review by the judiciary committee. However, in a letter to Cuomo on April 8, Gianaris requested that Cuomo to create an executive order to relieve rent now rather than wait for the legislation to pass.

“Despite the 90-day eviction moratorium you wisely established by executive order, three months of rent payments will eventually come due all at once,” said Gianaris in the letter. “Those who do not have funds for April’s rent will certainly not have the ability to pay three months’ worth of rent in July. The resulting wave of evictions and foreclosures would exacerbate a historically difficult time.”

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