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Rent advocates fill Manhattan street with furniture; NYPD takes 16 protesters into custody

Posted at 2:44 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 18:50:13-04

LOWER MANHATTAN — Protesters filled a Lower Manhattan street with furniture Thursday as part of a demonstration of what could happen as evictions proceed in New York.

Police took 16 protesters into custody. Officers removed couches, tables and rugs from the intersection.

Housing activists decried the rent situation in New York. With the ongoing economic crisis, many said they fear they could lose their homes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended an eviction moratorium to to Jan. 1, 2021, but the law is full of loopholes, according to Legal Aid Society attorney Ellen Davidson.

She said the eviction moratorium isn't actually a cause for celebration. Landlords can still send eviction notices to tenants, but those tenants have a defense.

"What he [Cuomo] has done is give tenants with COVID-related financial hardships a defense to their case if they raise this defense in the right way and are able to show that they had a COVID-related financial hardship, that should stop their case from moving forward," Davidson said. "But as I said, it's a confusing order. Most tenants don't have attorneys and so a tenant would have to know the defense exists and would have to be able to articulate it."

She said most tenants without an attorney would have major issues going before a judge.

"They've been just left on their own with no help and it's very disappointing," she said.

Cuomo spokesman Jack Sterne said the state had moved "heaven and earth" to help struggling New Yorkers. He listed more than $50 billion in unemployment benefits, an executive order barring landlords from evicting tenants for COVID-related hardships and an emergency rental assistance program to support low-income families.

"Histrionics aside, we understand that New Yorkers are struggling as a result of this unprecedented pandemic and State government has taken decisive action to help," Sterne said. "We know this pandemic is not done -- and neither is our work to support our neighbors."