Make the Road Action, District 34 Assembly candidate Jessica González-Rojas and more than 50 Queens residents marched toward Assemblyman Michael DenDekker’s office to hold him accountable for “failing to ensure a Recovery for All, including a state-level Excluded Workers’ Fund and canceling rent” on Thursday, June 11.
At DenDekker’s district office, located at 75-35 31st Ave. in East Elmhurst, community members criticized him for not co-sponsoring legislation to tax billionaires and use the revenue to create a $3.5 billion Excluded Workers’ Fund — a bill introduced by Queens Senator Jessica Ramos and supported by number of Queens lawmakers including Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly members Aravella Simotas and Catalina Cruz — to aid immigrant workers left out of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief.
“We need a Recovery for All — and that means prioritizing the needs of immigrants excluded from federal relief and tenants left in dire straits,” said González-Rojas, who received Make the Road’s endorsement for the Assembly’s election. “The incumbent has failed to stand up to ensure swift state action, including not signing on to Senator Jessica Ramos’ Excluded Workers Fund legislation. When I’m in office, I will continue standing with our communities for respect and dignity for all.”
The demonstrators said COVID-19 has devastated community members in Assembly District 34 — which encompasses some of the pandemic’s hardest hit neighborhoods, including Jackson Heights, Woodside, East Elmhurst and Corona — and disproportionately affected immigrants and people of color, as many continue to struggle due to family deaths, loss of income and inability to pay rent. They said Assembly member DenDekker hasn’t taken action and signed key policies that would directly help the residents at the epicenter of the crisis.
“My neighborhood has been the epicenter of this crisis. Too many of us have lost our loved ones, while at the same time worrying about how to feed our children. The federal government failed us, Albany has failed us, and DenDekker has failed us.” said Daniel Cortes, resident of Assembly District 34 and member of Make the Road Action. “His unwillingness to stand by our side and support canceling rent and creating an excluded workers fund to support families like mine is unacceptable.”
“The federal gov’t has exlcuded us, the state gov’t has exlcuded us. We can’t pay rent, & we don’t know how we are going to feed our families.” – Modesta@mgdendekker has NOT shown leadership for District 34, despite representing tenants hit the hardest by #COVID19. #CancelRent pic.twitter.com/pV2EzUzGpU
— Make the Road Action 🦋 (@MaketheRoadAct) June 11, 2020
Other residents spoke about the failure to cancel rent or introduce policy that would prevent tenants from accumulating crushing debt. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s eviction moratorium is set to end in June 20, with some additional protections until Aug. 20, according to Curbed NY.
“During this time of crisis, all workers and tenants deserve support. My family and I have not been able to pay rent this month — and this is the case for many in our neighborhood and throughout the state,” said Martha Morales, a member of Make the Road Action and a Queens tenant. “It is truly disappointing that Assembly member DenDekker still has not fully supported the people in his community. Today, I ask him: Why are you not supporting Queens tenants?”
In response to the demonstration, DenDekker told QNS he is “a major proponent of rent cancellation” and was one of the first co-sponsors of the Assembly legislation (A10224) to cancel rent back in March, when it was introduced by Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou.
DenDekker also addressed the Excluded Worker’s Fund, stating he was not aware of the legislation until now.
“The Excluded Bailout Fund bill was introduced on May 11; no bill memo for co-sponsorship came to my attention, it was not moved while we were in Albany in the Senate or the Assembly, and it never came to the floor or any committee for a vote. Now that I have reviewed it, I will support it and add my name as a co-sponsor,” DenDekker said. “New revenue must be sought. I also co-sponsor or support many other bills raising taxes on the wealthy and ultra-wealthy New Yorkers, as well as the pied-à-terre tax, legalizing marijuana, expanding casino gambling to New York City, online sports gambling and a stock transfer tax.”