Cancel rent in the North Country

To the editor:

The coronavirus has hit New York hard, and the Adirondacks aren’t immune to the effects of this pandemic. Anyone in need of aid — whether its grocery delivery, help covering your bills or help navigating social services — can fill out the mutual aid form at www.highpeaksdsa.org. We’ll match you with a neighbor who can help!

With many being laid off with no certainty of a job in the future or furloughed without certainty of when their next paycheck will come, residents throughout the area are now struggling and will continue to struggle to pay rent over the coming months.

Gov. Cuomo has been proactive in responding to this crisis. However, he has stood behind his push for deep Medicaid cuts to address the state’s budget shortfall and has not enacted a statewide rent cancellation policy. His New York State on PAUSE executive order fails to adequately address the needs of working people renting homes and apartments.

Freezing mortgage payments doesn’t protect the thousands of tenants throughout our region who are renting their homes. More must be done to protect those living in residential rentals. While there is a temporary moratorium on evictions, what will happen when that ends?

Will renters be expected to pay back rent upward of $1,600 or risk being evicted when the moratorium expires? How is anyone making minimum wage or less supposed to acquire triple their rent when this virus slows? This will have a negative effect on both workers and small businesses.

There should be a cancellation on rent payments, now. Not a pause, not a “work it out with your landlord.” Some landlords are willing to work with their tenants, but others aren’t. Rent should not be due during this global pandemic, across the board including commercial and residential spaces, not only for those lucky enough to have understanding landlords.

The federal government has offered a stimulus package that prioritizes the needs of wealthy corporations over those of working people. Corporations are receiving a $500 billion bailout, while public health only accounts for $150 billion of the financial injection.

Meanwhile, a one-time check of $1,200 is not enough to cover rent and basic essentials for most working people. It’s incumbent upon local leaders to pick up the slack. Our local leaders have a responsibility to immediately and boldly respond to this crisis for the sake of public health.

That’s why we demand:

¯ A cancellation of rent payments and freeze on mortgages for at least as long as the New York State on PAUSE order is in effect.

¯ Rent payments must be canceled entirely for the duration of the pandemic.

¯ All local officials, including Mayor Clyde Rabideau, must join the Essex and Franklin counties in demanding the immediate removal of all short-term rental listings from websites, including, but not limited to, Airbnb, HomeAway and Vrbo.

¯ All local officials should strongly encourage second homeowners to stay in their primary homes. Our area does not have the medical resources to provide quality care to summer-level populations.

¯ North Country leaders must implement strategies to diversify the North Country economy and move away from the over-reliance on tourism.

North Country people are resilient. We must unite together and support our most vulnerable to make it through this pandemic.

David Lynch, Erin Cass, Baylee Annis, Iris Li, Kaet O’Brien, Gabrielle Hopkins-Betters, Joe Henderson and the rest of High Peaks DSA (Democratic Socialists of America)

Saranac Lake


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