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Homeless Activists Carry Out Triple Interruption at City Council Meeting

October 27, 2010

Police escort two PTH activists out of City Hall.

Police escort two PTH activists out of City Hall.

As part of an increasingly boisterous campaign to convince the New York City Council to conduct a census of vacant buildings, leaders from the activist organization Picture the Homeless interrupted today's otherwise mundane all-member City Council meeting.

Leaping from their seats on three separate occasions, activists urged Speaker Christine Quinn to bring the bill -- called Intro 48 -- before the Housing Committee. "Calendar Intro 48!" they shouted, before police dragged them to the street.

The interruptions followed a protest last week, in which seven members of Picture the Homeless disrupted a council Housing and Buildings Committee hearing in an effort to drum up attention from council members.

Picture the Homeless wrote the legislation for Intro 48, which would ask the City to conduct an annual census of vacant property so the community could better identify locations for affordable housing. It was introduced in February and has languished in Housing and Buildings since.

After last week's action, Council Members Robert Jackson and Erik Martin Dilan agreed to meet with group members. But a building security team later canceled the Dilan meeting. "We've reached out to him to reschedule, and we've gotten no response," said the group's lead organizer Sam Miller. The meeting with Jackson has not been set yet.

While Intro 48 has garnered support from nearly half the council, Quinn opposes it, saying it would cost "millions of dollars." Picture the Homeless says the outlay would be more like $60,000.

At the meeting today, Quinn responded to the outbursts with sarcasm. "Well, I think we have confirmed that we have good acoustics," she said, as activists' shouts rang through the hall.

"She's [potentially] running for mayor and she's depending on the real estate agencies to finance her campaign," said William Burnett, housing campaign leader at Picture the Homeless. "And I don't imagine they want transparency in their industry."

The group, meanwhile, is gearing up for something bigger. "We don't have the money to put in campaign coffers," said Burnett. "So we won't move them with our wallets, but with our direct action."

This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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