December 1, 2009
To expose the hypocrisy of Mayor Bloomberg's Annual World AIDS Day Breakfast at Gracie Mansion, ten Housing Works' protesters, including President and CEO Charles King, staged a sit-in at the entrance to Gracie Mansion today. All ten were arrested while chanting "People with AIDS under attack, what do we do? Act up, fight back!"
"Another World AIDS Day breakfast, another year of Bloomberg failing to address the needs of people living with HIV and AIDS," said King before his arrest. "We will not come here every December 1 and pretend that the Mayor cares about the well-being of New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS until he proves it with his budget and his policies."
Just after the arrest, some 50 people from the New York City AIDS Housing Network marched to Gracie Mansion and then harangued the mayor, chastising him for his opposition to 30 percent rent cap legislation for poor HIV-positive New Yorkers in supportive housing. Down at City Hall Park, hundreds gathered for Housing Works annual 24-hour World AIDS Day Vigil, where the names of people who have died of AIDS are read for 24 continuous hours.
Every World AIDS Day, Mayor Bloomberg invites AIDS service providers and people living with AIDS and HIV to a breakfast at Gracie Mansion, where he stands with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to talk about addressing the needs of New Yorkers living with AIDS and HIV.
For the last several years, however, Bloomberg has shown his lack of commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic by slashing funding for housing placement, case management, nutrition, and HIV prevention programs. In the last budget season, Bloomberg succeeded in cutting $6 million in AIDS services funding. Both Bloomberg and Quinn also oppose the passage of the HASA for All Act, which would allow people to receive housing benefits before they become dangerously ill rather than after.
The result? According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there are nearly 20% more New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS than when Bloomberg first took office. In 2001, there were 85,329 New Yorkers living with the disease. As of June 30, 2008, the number was 104,234.
Housing Works is calling for Bloomberg to cease his perpetual threats to funding for the city's AIDS services and amend the HIV/AIDS Service Administration (HASA)'s backward policy of denying people housing assistance until after they get seriously ill.
Housing Works also demands that the Mayoral Office of AIDS Policy be restored. Eliminated by Bloomberg in 2001, this office ensured that city agencies were coordinating their efforts to address the epidemic with a comprehensive approach. Since the elimination of this office, city agencies have been acting separately, leading to a lack of coordination and duplication of services and placing unnecessary strain on the city budget.