Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie

New York State is in the middle of a public health crisis. Each passing day, more and more people are at risk of contracting COVID-19. This crisis affects the 92,000 homeless New Yorkers most of all. New Yorkers who face homelessness or day-to-day housing insecurity are at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus, becoming ill, and suffering catastrophic health outcomes.

Governor Cuomo’s reaction to this crisis has been austerity, more cost cutting, and even prison labor. Our reaction is the opposite. This crisis means that we need MORE money for public housing, MORE money for services and housing for homeless New Yorkers, and an end to rent increases and evictions.

New Yorkers are facing loss of income as we are either forced or voluntarily decide to stay home from work to protect our health. As the public is urged to avoid public spaces, small businesses are facing a similar loss of income -- a problem made worse by xenophobia against immigrant-owned businesses in particular.  

Evictions and homelessness significantly worsen the threat posed by COVID-19. In order to halt widespread displacement from our homes and our jobs or businesses which would only worsen the current situation, we are calling on Governor Cuomo and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to immediately freeze rents, and institute a moratorium on all evictions and utility shut-offs in New York State in New York State.

To: Governor Andrew Cuomo, Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie
From: [Your Name]

New York is facing a public health crisis that is made worse by a lack of adequate housing.

COVID-19 impacts vulnerable New Yorkers the most: the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.

For the 92,000 people who are homeless, this public health crisis puts them at a greater-than-average risk of exposure to the virus.

Many, many more cannot afford rent. New Yorkers are facing a loss of income -- either voluntarily or as the result of being forced to stay home from work for the protection of everyone’s health. This makes it harder to pay already unaffordable rents. Without adequate housing, the most vulnerable New Yorkers are unable to fight COVID-19 and other deadly illnesses.

If more New Yorkers are evicted in the coming days and weeks, COVID-19 could start to spread more rapidly among those who become homeless. Our state cannot let that nightmare become a reality. San Francisco and San Jose are currently considering a moratorium on COVID-19 related evictions. We urge you to expand on their example and lead the nation by issuing a moratorium on evictions in the face of COVID-19 - a massive public health crisis that is hitting New York harder than most other states in the country.

Housing Court is already unsafe for the elderly and the immunocompromised. The housing crisis is so bad that every day that court is in session, courtrooms are packed with defendants, lawyers, and supporters who are fighting eviction. To drag the most vulnerable New Yorkers into Housing Court, against the advice of public health professionals, adds the cruel insult of a severe health-risk to the injury of eviction.

Finally, thousands of New Yorkers have their power shut off each year, and millions are threatened with shut off notices. Energy is a medical necessity for many, but it is not uncommon for New Yorkers to have to choose between paying for rent, medicine, or utilities. Shutoffs and energy insecurity have a huge potential to exacerbate the crisis and endanger public health.

This is not the first public health crisis our State has faced, nor will it be the last. The reaction to crisis CANNOT be austerity. We need healthcare, housing, and utility justice.

In order to prevent further illness and loss of life, we must invest in public housing, services/housing for homeless New Yorkers, and an end to evictions. We must invest in a #NYHomesGuarantee.

We know that we can make New York eviction free. We are fighting to expand Right to Counsel in New York and in cities across the State, and we are fighting for a #NYHomesGuarantee. Stand with us in this crisis, in order to stop preventable illness and displacement, and freeze all evictions and utility shutoffs in New York.