CORONAVIRUS IN NYC: De Blasio calls for rent freeze, says 'we're clearly not there yet' on lifting restrictions despite drop in hospitalizations, positive cases

1010 WINS Newsroom
April 24, 2020 - 10:45 am

    NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new efforts Friday to help New York City communities hit the hardest by the coronavirus as he called on the Rent Guidelines Board to enact a rent freeze on rent-stabilized units.

    “The challenges that landlords are facing are real, I'm not belittling them, but they pale in comparison to what tenants are facing,” de Blasio said. “To me, it’s abundantly clear that we need a rent freeze.”

    De Blasio made the call as the Rent Guidelines Board begins its annual process of looking at rents. They're holding virtual meetings this year because of the virus.

    The mayor said the city is going through the "greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression" and drastic measures need to be taken to protect people. "A lot of what we saw in the Great Depression is happening right now, right here," he said.

    "So my message to the Rent Guidelines Board is clear," de Blasio said. "Issue your reports, do your research, that's great, hold your hearings as quickly as possible, take your vote and give the tenants who are rent stabilized in this city—over 2 million New Yorkers—give them a rent freeze. They need it. It's clear. The facts are clear."

    De Blasio also called on the state to step in and approve the use of security deposits to pay rents, and he urged the state to allow tenants who miss rent to repay it over 12 months.

    "There is no reason not to authorize this right now," de Blasio said of the security deposits. "It's an emergency action that would help a lot of people."

    The mayor said the state should also approve the extension of the eviction moratorium to 60 days beyond when the crisis ends.

    De Blasio urged anyone threatened with eviction by landlords to call 311 and that the "City of New York will step in and we'll stop that eviction."

    Rent freeze
    NYC Mayor's Office

    The mayor focused his daily briefing Friday on the virus' impact on communities that have faced ongoing inequities, including communities of color and immigrant communities. He said many people there have trouble getting access to health care.

    “The virus teamed up with the inequalities that already exist in our society,” the mayor said.

    De Blasio said the city is continuing to expand on its four-point action plan to combat the inequalities. The plan includes: protecting and preserving public hospitals; a massive public awareness campaign; grassroots outreach; and telemedicine.

    The mayor said the city has invested billion to keep public hospitals going and is adding additional testing sites focusing on hard-hit communities. He estimates 10,000 tests could be done each week in hard-hit communities.

    Earlier this week, the mayor announced that six new testing sites prioritizing NYCHA residents and nearby residents with high-risk factors would be opening in the coming days across the boroughs.

    Three of those locations were set to open Friday at these H+H Community Testing Sites: Cumberland Health Center in Crown Heights; Belvis Health Center in Mott Haven; and Gouverneur Health Center on the Lower East Side. Three more open next week: Jonathan Williams Houses in Williamsburg; Woodside Houses in Woodside; St. Nicholas Houses in Harlem.

    The mayor said the city has initiated a $10 million public awareness campaign focusing on 88 ZIP codes and is sending mailers to 3.4 million homes in English, Spanish and Chinese. There will also be several tele-town halls with faith leaders and webinars reaching thousands, de Blasio said.

    At his daily briefing, de Blasio also said key indicators tracking the spread of the virus were "all moving in the correct direction, which is down."

    The mayor said the number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 was down, as was the number of ICU people in ICU for suspected COVID-19. The percentage of people who tested positive for COVID-19—both citywide and in public hospitals—was also down.

    When it comes to reopening the economy and easing restrictions though, de Blasio said "we're clearly not there yet." He said all indicators were good Friday but that the city needs to see 10 to 14 days of good indicators before such measures can even be considered.

    Indicators 4/24
    NYC Mayor's Office

    At least 141,754 coronavirus cases have been reported in New York City. There have been 10,290 confirmed deaths from the virus and 5,121 “probable” deaths from the virus, bringing the death toll citywide to 15,411.

    The breakdown of cases by borough is:

    • Bronx: 31,911
    • Brooklyn 37,564
    • Manhattan 17,803
    • Queens 43,824
    • Staten Island: 10,582

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that 13.9 percent of people randomly tested across New York had COVID-19 antibodies, suggesting 2.7 million people across the state may be infected.

    Cuomo also released some startling results from New York City: 21.2 percent of people randomly tested there had COVID-19 antibodies. With a population of 8.6 million, that would suggest about 1.8 million in the city could be infected. 

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