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NewsNew York

Tenants throw furniture into city streets, asking rent be canceled during pandemic

Demonstrators hold signs during an eviction protest in

Demonstrators hold signs during an eviction protest in Foley Square in New York Thursday. Credit: Bloomberg/Paul Frangipane

Activists and tenants hauled furniture onto Broadway in Manhattan Thursday demanding the state "cancel" rent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to video posted to Twitter showing the NYPD making arrests.

Video showed bookshelves, tables and dressers and other furniture blocking Broadway near Park Place and Murray Street, site of the New York State Legislature’s city offices and City Hall.

"CUOMO CANCEL RENT!" one sign said in Spanish, addressing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

"Tenants have moved furniture onto Broadway to protest the impending evictions of thousands of tenants due to the pandemic," according to another tweet, which uses the hashtags #CancelRent" and "#AbolishEvictions."

On Monday, Cuomo announced what he said was a moratorium on evictions until Jan. 1, saying residential tenants couldn't be evicted if they suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic. They were still responsible, however, for accrued rent and tenants still had to make their case against eviction in housing courts.

Asked about the event, Cuomo spokesman Jack Sterne did not address the protesters' demands but said by email, "We know this pandemic is not done -- and neither is our work to support our neighbors. ... 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."

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams said in a statement, "Without a true moratorium, eviction cases can still be filed and advanced, and the burden will fall to tenants to prove they are eligible to stay in their homes, a burden which may prove too much for some of the vulnerable populations in our city and state which have already felt immense pain in this pandemic."

Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society, in a news release, called Cuomo's order a "hollow moratorium — a moratorium in name only — which does not build on the tenant protections already afforded by the Federal government and the Tenant Safe Harbor Act.

Sgt. Mary Frances O'Donnell, an NYPD spokeswoman, confirmed police were involved in a call to Broadway involving the furniture but did not have other details.

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