Comedian and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Michael Che on Wednesday pledged to pay one month’s rent for all 160 apartments at a public housing building where his late grandmother lived. Earlier this month, Che, who grew up on the Lower East Side, announced he lost his grandmother, Martha, to complications from the coronavirus.
“It’s crazy to me that residents of public housing are still expected to pay their rent when so many New Yorkers can’t even work,” Che wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “Obviously I can’t offer much help by myself. But in the spirit and memory of my late grandmother, I’m paying one month’s rent for all 160 apartments in the NYCHA building she lived in.”
According to the Washington Post, the public housing building holds a “meaningful place” for his family’s history, but his grandmother had moved out of the building in the 1990s.
In the same post, Che then called on the city and state to provide rent relief during this time. “I know that’s just a drop in the bucket,” he wrote. “So I really hope the city has a better plan for debt forgiveness for all the people in public housing, AT THE VERY LEAST.” And in a postscript: “P.S. de Blasio! Cuomo! Diddy! Let’s fix this! Page me!”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has voiced support for a broader rent freeze in New York City amid the pandemic, and specifically one for tenants of public housing. In an interview with WNYC last week, the mayor said freezing rents for NYCHA residents would be “very fair” but likely requires approval from the federal government.
“It’s against the backdrop of, you know, an organization that 400,000 people are depending upon for their housing,” de Blasio said. “And it’s something I’m pretty certain we could only do with federal approval because all the public housing is chartered by the federal government.”
And a more extensive rent freeze for the city would have to be done on the state level, de Blasio said. On Monday, the mayor called on the state to act on a number of rent relief initiatives to help NYC renters including a deferment of rents, using prepaid security deposits as rent, an extension of the current moratorium on evictions, and a freeze on rent increases for the city’s rent-stabilized units.
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