By Carla Zanoni
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS —Changes to rent laws could force Manhattanites into tent cities similar to the one that packed Central Park during the Great Depression, protesters say.
Organizers of a demonstration urging strong rent regulations are asking supporters to set up camp under canvas to show what they say the city would be like without stronger rent protections.
"The tent cities are meant to clearly show what will happen if the Governor and Legislature fail to renew and strengthen these laws by repealing vacancy destabilization," reads a flyer distributed by Assemblyman Denny Farrell’s office.
The tent cities, organized by tenant advocacy group The Real Rent Reform Campaign, have been dubbed Cuomoville by organizers, poking blame at the state's leader for failing to come out in support of stronger rent regualtions.
During the Great Depression, scores of homeless people camped on Central Park's Great Lawn — then an empty reservoir — in a shanty town called Hooverville.
Earlier this month, elected officials gathered with community members to discuss the impending loss of rent regulations at forums throughout Harlem and Washington Heights.
The loss could happen if Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not give his backing for the renewal of those laws.
Albany legislators reached an agreement with the governor earler this week that rent regulations would not be nixed altogether, but advocates have redirected their campaigns toward the strengthening and expansion of the regulations rather than just saving them.
"Some 2.5 million tenants in New York City and the surrounding suburbs depend on these laws to prevent unfair rent increases and unlawful evictions," Farrell said in a public statement.
"If laws are not renewed and strengthened, many tenants will be put out on the streets."
Tent city protests are planned at three locations in Manhattan next week.
The first will be on Tuesday at Holy Apostle Church, West 28th Street and Ninth Avenue. For more information contact email@example.com.
On Wednesday, people will camp out at City Hall, at Broadway and Warren Street. A march will proceed the tent demonstration at 8 p.m. For more information visit www.blessednightout.org.
And on Thursday, campers will gather at Ft. Washington Collegiate Church, at 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.