The playful suggestion accompanied a more serious demand by protesters, who asked the city to raise rental assistance voucher amounts.
In the shadow of the city’s newest, shiniest skyscraper complex, homeless New Yorkers and housing advocates on Tuesday called on the city to step up its efforts to house residents during the pandemic.
Posters promoting the demonstration, as well as at least one protester’s sign, proclaimed, “House the Homeless in Hudson Yards” — the West Side megadevelopment at the southern end of Hell’s Kitchen.
Speakers at the rally under Hudson Yards’ giant Vessel sculpture took aim at the nearly $6 billion in tax breaks and other public funds that the complex’s developers received from the city, saying it would have been better spent increasing the value of housing vouchers given to shelter residents.
The rallygoers’ main demand was for the City Council to pass Intro 146, a bill introduced in 2018 and now backed by 41 council members that would raise each voucher up to fair market value, which is set by the federal government.
Julia Hawthorne, who lives at the Stewart Hotel shelter on Seventh Avenue with her two teenage children, said she would receive only $1,580 in vouchers if she tried to leave the shelter and move into a two-bedroom home with her two teenage children.
“When my two teenagers are forced to share a room for over 6 months because my voucher is undervalued, that’s inhumane,” she said.
“To be told it’s too expensive to pass Intro 146 and increase our vouchers but then to turn around and locate $6 billion for billionaires to build a playhouse, that’s just wrong,” Hawthorne added.
Despite widespread Council support, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has pushed back against the plan, according to the New York Daily News.
Toward the end of the event, protesters attempted to unfurl a banner reading “House the Homeless, Not Millionaires” from the upper floor of the Vessel. Security officers quickly mounted the stairs and pulled the banner back up.
After the Hudson Yards rally, protesters marched to Speaker Corey Johnson‘s office on West 30th Street, where they planned to present his staff with a petition by shelter residents asking for voucher reform, as well as a giant, symbolic check, requesting funding for permanent housing instead of shelters.