Marti Gould Cummings, a candidate for the City Council in 2021, has unveiled a seven-point plan to address affordability during the coronavirus crisis and launched a petition calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to suspend rent and mortgage payments.
The change.org petition has totaled more than 130,500 signatures since it was created on March 17, highlighting the public’s support for comprehensive relief in the city.
“While evictions have been suspended for the time being, there should be a total pause on rent and mortgage payments in the state,” wrote Cummings, a drag artist and LGBTQ advocate aiming to replace term-limited Upper Manhattan Councilmember Mark Levine in the Seventh District. “It is imperative we protect people in this time of need.”
By March 19, Cuomo announced mortgage payments would be deferred for 90 days, but advocates were still pushing the governor to provide relief for renters.
“The majority of people in New York rent and we’re already struggling to pay rent as it is,” Cummings told Gay City News in a phone interview on March 19. “So imagine the weight we’re going to have on people who already live paycheck to paycheck, who live bill to bill, struggling in a city that’s increasingly become more for the wealthy. We have to work for everyday New Yorkers even more so.”
Cummings’ seven-point affordability plan lists even more ways to tackle affordability issues facing New Yorkers in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, which has triggered a rash of sudden layoffs and a significant economic downturn. Their plan calls to ban evictions, utility cutoffs, and late fees for all New Yorkers, whether they rent or own; subsidize those who cannot pay rent or mortgage, or who lose their income due to the crisis; force landlords, utilities, and lenders to allow for payment plans lasting up to 24 months after the end of the state of emergency; allow tenants to extend soon-to-be-expired leases for up to three months beyond the state of emergency; stop all late fees for small businesses leases; allow small businesses to delay payments on property tax and sales tax for twelve months after they’re allowed to re-open; and freeze rent for at least two years after the pandemic.
“We have to protect people now more than ever,” Cummings said. “People are really going to be affected by what’s happening. For a lot of people, especially freelancers, artists, and low-income families, if they have to pay rent it will financially ruin people.”