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Brooklyn pols arrested during rent-regulation rally

A handful of New York City and New York State lawmakers – including Brooklyn Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Laurie Cumbo, and Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte – were arrested outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Albany office on Wednesday, June 3 amidst a rally for stronger rent regulations and an overhaul of the current system under which those laws expire every couple of years.

With the expiration of rent regulation laws looming, the trio of Brooklyn legislators – as well as eight other politicians – were arrested for civil disobedience whilst blocking the entrance-way to Cuomo’s office.

The pols joined community-formed “tenant armies” in their quest to strengthen legislation that currently protects more than one million rent-stabilized housing units citywide – the same set of laws due to expire on Monday, June 15.

“Affordable housing is a right worth fighting for – a right that many New Yorkers will lose if Albany does not strengthen our rent laws by June 15,” said Williams – who represents parts of Flatbush, East Flatbush and Canarsie – in a statement after his arrest, contending that, though Cuomo has said he supports rent regulation (by specifically supporting a raise in the dollar amount of the rent at which an apartment becomes deregulated), he has not provided the same leadership on this issue that he has on others.

“For hours, we rallied, marched, yelled, screamed, protested, picketed and ultimately were arrested outside of Governor Cuomo’s office to send him a clear message: strengthen our rent laws or you will be to blame,” Williams went on, explaining that he engaged in an act of civil disobedience “because housing is a human right that Governor Cuomo is trying to limit for our neediest New Yorkers. And what is his answer to strengthening our rent laws? Raise the minimum rent from $2,500 to $2,700 before a rent-stabilized unit that becomes vacant can be removed from the regulatory system and go to market rate. This a terrible joke.”

Cumbo, who serves Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights, agreed.

“Affordable housing is not a luxury or privilege, but a right that we all deserve. The will of the people, in one resounding voice, must be heard in Albany. New Yorkers should not be uprooted from their homes,” she said. “Our actions on Wednesday were a reflection of democracy in action as we stood arm in arm demanding stronger rent laws. Community activism is the most effective method to activate change. With the deadline to renew New York’s rent regulation laws looming, we remain committed to preserving the economic and cultural diversity of our city and state.”

Bichotte, who represents Flatbush, East Flatbush and parts of Midwood, said that – despite her arrest – the rally went well.

“The officers were very kind to us and everything went well,” she said. “This was a statement. I am for renewal of rent control and rent stabilization. Not only renewal, but to make it permanent so that we don’t have to keep voting on this every two or five years.”

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