Caribbean American NYC Public Advocate Arrested During Tenants’ Rights Protest

Jumaane Williams

NEW YORK (CMC) – Caribbean American New York City Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams and 60 other activists were arrested on Tuesday during a protest at the New York State Capitol in Albany demanding the passage of comprehensive reforms to the state’’ rent regulations before they expire on June 15.

Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) after his release that they were detained after the civil disobedience for obstructing the entrances to the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as actions within the State Assembly and State Senate wings.

Williams said the majority of the demonstrators arrested were charged with disorderly conduct.

“Across the state, tenants have been calling for reform and relief, which is why I joined them in Albany today to make some noise,” he said after his release. “And our voices were heard loud and clear.

“I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and all of the legislators who are committed to fighting for housing justice for all, and I want to continue to uplift the dedicated advocates who have spent months and years pushing for the kinds of changes we need,” he added.

“Now, we just need to get it done and put it on the governor’s desk,” continued Williams, stating that those arrested were part of a crowd of several hundred activists who had traveled to Albany, the state capital, from around New York State to demand passage of the Universal Rent Control legislative package, which consists of nine bills.

Housing Justice for All, a coalition of advocacy groups from both upstate and downstate New York, led Tuesday’s action as part of a “sustained statewide campaign in support of the legislative package,” Williams said.

Following a rally focused on the need for the State Legislature to pass and the governor to sign all nine bills currently being considered, activists chanted “They think it’s a game, they think it’s a joke; fight, fight, fight,” among other calls and responses, Williams said.

He said the advocacy groups marched through the “million-dollar staircase” and hallways of the capitol before sitting down and refusing to allow access to the Governor’s Office.
As protesters were being released following detention at the capitol, Stewart-Cousins announced in a statement that the State Senate had secured enough votes to pass all nine bills being supported by the advocacy groups.

Williams has made tenants’ rights and expanded rent regulation laws signature pieces of his agenda both in the three months since becoming NYC Public Advocate and in the years prior as a New York City council member, representing the predominantly Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn, and as chair of New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Last month, Williams held a one-day, five-borough tour throughout New York City, stopping at significant locations in each borough, including housing court, real estate developer offices, apartment buildings in need of repair, among others, “in order to amplify the need to pass each bill in the package.” – CMC