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Illustrated graphic by Francisca Benitez.
Illustrated graphic by Francisca Benitez.

New Yorkers Launch #CancelRent Social Media Campaign

On Monday, April 27, the hashtag “Cancel Rent” will be deployed across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook beginning at 12 PM to pressure New York City lawmakers to suspend rent payments for the more than 200,000 small business owners, including art dealers, across the five boroughs struggling to survive amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Organized by the New Art Dealers Alliance Art (NADA) and the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), the campaign hopes to help provide crucial relief to those whose livelihoods are in jeopardy.

A petition advocating for the cancelation of rent that was launched by NADA currently has nearly 40,300 signatures. Organizers behind the action are urging people to call or tag their state senators on social media in the days leading up to May 1 and to ask for them to lend their support to the S8125 bill. Sponsored by Senator Michael Gianaris, the Democratic deputy Senate majority leader who represents Astoria, Long Island City, and Sunnyside, among other neighborhoods in Queens, the bill, if passed, will suspend all rent payments for small businesses that were forced to close because of the pandemic, as well as certain residential tenants, for a period of ninety days.

Because of the devastating impact of Covid-19, the Wall Street Journal reports that there will be a nationwide rent strike come May 1. Among those participating are the inhabitants of a group of seventeen buildings in Queens, which are mainly affordable-housing residences owned by the property management company Cosmopolitan Houses and are located in one of the hardest-hit areas of Queens. Their nearest hospital, Elmhurst Hospital Center, has made numerous headlines since becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus cases and has been called the “epicenter of the epicenter.”

Steve Stadmeyer, the general manager of Cosmopolitan Houses, confirmed that the majority of tenants paid their April rent. While he would not comment on whether the company would negotiate or be flexible with rent for the month of May, he told the Wall Street Journal that Cosmopolitan’s staff has been providing program information to renters who may need financial assistance.