Mutual Aid NYC Newsletter
Subway shelter policy, tenants rights, great events, and more
March 18th, 2022
Happy Friday everyone! As always, we would love to hear your feedback on the newsletter. We’re always trying to improve!
Some of what you’ll find below:
A deeper dive into subway shelter policy
Some other things you should know: Good Cause Eviction, ERAP rights, Special election in District 43
Find volunteer opportunities in Queens and donation drives in Manhattan and Brooklyn
See if a prescription program fits your needs
A LOT of awesome events below
Featured Issue: Subway Shelter Policy
“My brother, he works as a conductor in the subway. He took me into the cockpit one day and showed me all the bodies. People all over the ground.”
“Maybe dead, maybe sleeping. Just bodies, man.”
A passenger on a downtown 1 train may have painted an exaggerated picture of the scale of New Yorkers sheltering in our subway system, but the experience of witnessing individuals who are taking shelter in the subway is universal to riders.
Hundreds of people are living in NYC subway stations and tunnels, the MTA says. Last month the MTA released the results of a survey conducted on February 2nd and 3rd, where the authority reported 350 people living in stations and tunnels. This two-day survey does not represent the full scale of how many individuals seek shelter, temporarily or consistently, in our subway; in the 1990s, the subway population was estimated by an MTA official to be around 5,000. Mayor Adams’s subway safety plan, a reversal of Mayor de Blasio’s scaleback of officer intervention in subway homelessness, pledges the removal of “more than 1,000” individuals who shelter there. These numbers are at best rough estimates, as the true number is dynamic and subject to changes in the environment, economy, and social policy landscape.
This past Friday around 7pm on a Brooklyn-bound Q train I was opposite a sleeping man on the train bench. At 14th Street two patrol officers boarded and began to strike the pole above the man’s head. Prodding him, they asked “You good? You can’t be doing this, you know.”
The train was stopped at the station, doors open. The man was barely responsive, only nodding, and avoiding eye contact with the officers.
“Sit up, ‘cause it’s against the rules. You can be here, you just can’t lie down. No room for other people.”
The car was about ¼ full. The man sat up and maintained his silence. The officers left the train. The man reclined again as soon as the train left the station.
This is the policy change meant to curb the amount of people sheltering on the subway; a “zero-tolerance approach” to the subway rules of conduct.
The enforcement of this policy falls on police officers, who have a poor history of using force against the homeless in subways.
“We are terrified about what is to come,” said Josh Dean, Executive Director of Human.NYC. “Aggressive NYPD targeting of homeless New Yorkers does not solve homelessness — it just moves it. We need to take an entirely different approach, centered around housing, around compassion, and around building trust. We cannot more strongly condemn today’s plan and the dehumanizing rhetoric that accompanied it.”
This project’s alternative calls for the focus of the subway shelter policy to be on the relative safety of those experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and an end to intertwining the work of homeless services and the NYPD.
The City has entertained the idea of de-policing homeless outreach, seeking volunteers among school nurses and social workers to compose social service teams. These teams have faced holdups in implementation and deployment, and their deployment have had poor results as reported by the Post. In the Post’s reporting, across eight hours in Penn Station-- identified by City Hall as one of six “highest need” stations-- the reporters saw no contacted individuals leave the station with the social service teams.
Local News, Some Things You Should Know, with a Bit of Upside
The Prohibition of Eviction without Good Cause Bill (Good Cause Eviction), introduced by State Senator Julia Salazar, would prevent landlords from evicting tenants if they pay rent and are a “good tenant”
What is the current situation? Landlords can raise rents according to their preference and deny renewals in non-rent-controlled apartments
What does this bill do? Landlords must provide a “good reason” when evicting and a reason when rent increases are 150% higher than local inflation. Tenants can not be evicted for trying to form a tenant association
How progressive is this bill on a scale of 1-10? 2/10? Maybe an argument could be made for 3/10. Though new sites say it’s “a landlord’s worst nightmare” and an “anti-eviction bill” (which it isn’t), you may think the protections in the bill are already law. Under the bill, landlords can still evict easily so long as they provide a reason which can be as vague as being a “nuisance” or “refusing a lease in bad faith.” Many tenants have seen drastic rent hikes recently, sometimes more than 50%. These are still possible under the bill if a “good reason” is provided
Call to Action → Tell your senator you support the bill here!
Good News! → Beacon, NY passed their own Good Cause Eviction last week! The vote was moved up after landlords began drastically increasing rent in anticipation of the bill. The only NO vote was cast by Mayor Lee Kyriacou, who is a landlord
Did you apply for and receive funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)? Know your tenant rights!
→ If you have received confirmation that your landlord has received ERAP funding for your rent, they are legally prohibited from increasing rent for one year
→ If your landlord has increased rent or threatened eviction, you may call 311 or go to this website for free legal services. Your income must be below 200% of the poverty line to qualify for a free lawyer, but those with incomes higher can still receive free legal advice
A special election for state assembly in District 43 is happening on March 22. Do you live in Crown Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, or Flatbush? Then this may be your district. Early voting has already begun!
→ Find your pollsite here and look here for early voting hours and absentee ballot applications
Bonus → Check out this map that visualizes election participation and turnout in NYC
Link Up with Your Local Mutual Aid Group!
Astoria Mutual Aid is looking for social media volunteers. Shifts are very flexible and the role is low time commitment
Role entails: sharing posts, answering DMs, posting stories to share resources, responding to comments, and keeping the community informed
If interested, DM their Instagram or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Urgent! The Elmhurst Community Fridge located at 77-02 Woodside Ave, Queens, NY 11373 needs volunteers to help clean the fridge and pick up pre-paid food. They are at risk of shutting down without more volunteers
Sign up to volunteer here
If you can, please donate food or venmo the fridge @elmhurst-fridge
Resource → Find other community fridges in NYC here
Gowanus Mutual Aid is holding a Spring Cleaning Donation Drive
Looking for: cleaning supplies
When and where: til April 27 @ 6 locations including Camp Friendship and Assemblymember Anne Simon’s Office. Find the entire list with times on their website
Find their wish list for direct ordering here
Uptown Wagon is holding a free store on March 25 for people to take what they need and give what they can
Looking for: coats and winter gear, clothes, toiletries, children’s toys and supplies, blankets, and more! In good condition only please!
When and where: March 25 from 1-5pm @ Borough President Mark Levin’s office, 431 W 125th St. Manhattan, NY 1002
To drop off donations in advance or arrange pickup (if there’s capacity) please DM them on Instagram or join their FB group
Resource of the Week: Prescription Discount Programs
Prescription discount programs are (mostly) free to join and have already negotiated prices with pharmacies and manufacturers, allowing you to buy drugs at a discount, sometimes comparable to insurance prices. Some are listed below
Before we continue, we want to let you know that we’re going to list programs from companies that we do not support and are part of why the modern healthcare system is so awful. Unfortunately, healthcare has become a luxury for many and we want to share any resources for those who have little or no access, even if they come from said companies.
GoodRx is free to join and covers “almost all FDA-approved drugs,” including some for pets. You can search on their site and app for the lowest prices in your area and then print or present the coupon on the app
Optum Perks does not require enrollment or a membership. You can search for drugs, including some for pets, on their site and print or send the coupon to yourself. You can also request a discount card to show to pharmacies via text, email, or print
Others include ScriptSave WellRx, SingleCare, and RxSaver
Warning: As with most companies offering a “free service,” they may be profiting off your data. These programs are not subject to the same regulations as insurance and aren’t required to protect your privacy. We highlighted two options that may be better on this front. GoodRx, after being investigated, offers the option to opt out of cookies and delete user data while Optum Perks does not require signing up.
Events Coming Up
March 19 @ 1pm: Mask and Test Kits Distribution with Bed-Stuy Strong
Where: Herbert Von King Park and Saratoga Park
Rain date: March 20 at 1pm
Bed-Stuy Strong is giving out KN95 masks in adult and child sizes as well as test kits from 1pm until supplies run out
March 20 @ 4pm: Canvas with NYDSA Housing Working Group
Where: St. Nicholas Park in Harlem, intersection of St. Nicholas Ave and 135th St
Meet with the NYDSA Housing Group to canvass in Inez Dickens’s district, the only legislator in Manhattan who does not support the Good Cause Eviction Bill
March 23 @ 9am: Divest to Redistribute Rally
Where: City Hall at City Hall Park, New York, NY 10007
Join Freedom Agenda, a project within the Urban Justice Center working on decarceration, in demanding a just NYC budget, one that shifts resources from the Department of Correction to urgent community investments
March 23 @ 8:30-10:30pm: Free Store with Uptown Wagon
Where: 431 W 125th st., Manhattan, NY 10027, between Amsterdam and Morningside
Uptown wagon will be giving out clothes, socks, shoes, toiletries, PPE, haircuts, toys, meals, and information about community resources. There will also be a clinic offering medic services, blood pressure checks, and HIV testing. Take what you need, give what you can
From 4-10pm, COVID-19 vaccines and test will be offered, no ID or appointment needed
March 24 @ 4-7pm: Prisoner Letter Writing Night at the Library
Where: Greenpoint Library, 107 Norman Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
North Brooklyn Mutual Aid and Black and Pink, a prison abolitionist organization, invites you to write letters to incarcerated folks in Eco Lab 2 at the library. Materials will be provided
March 25 @ 6-8pm: Queer Immigrant Youth Meet Up
Where: Minkwon Center, 33-29 41st Ave, Suite 202, Queens, NY 11355
Minkwon Youth invites you to eat food, play games, and have a good time! Meet up open to all queer immigrant youth ages 14-24 who are vaccinated and boosted
March 26 @ 10-11am: Market Day hosted by Gowanus Mutual Aid
Where: Corner of Douglass and Bond
Gowanus Mutual Aid is holding their monthly Market Day at the Free Store where they collect essential items and give them to the community for free. Check out their website here if you want to donate items or sign up to volunteer
MANYC Self Promo
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Going to the I Need Help page
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Calling the hotline at: 646-437-8080
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