By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Anti-vax protesters disrupted a housing forum held at the NYU Dental School last Thursday, frustrating tenants who wanted to learn details about the new rent laws.
State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger were two of the elected officials at the event and the two that received the most ire from the protesters, primarily because they were both sponsors legislation in the State Senate repealing religious exemptions for vaccinations.
The law requires that all students in public and private schools be vaccinated to attend, with no exceptions made for those with religious objections to vaccines, and many of the protesters at the event had signs arguing that thousands of children, including those with special needs, were being kicked out of their schools because of their parents’ religious beliefs.
The protest surprised elected officials attending, in part because local politicians who appear at community events in the neighborhood rarely have such vehement opposition to their policies, especially where the topic at hand is entirely unrelated to the subject being protested, but also because the legislation passed more than a month ago in mid-June.
Even as he was arriving at the event, Hoylman was challenged in the elevator by a man who argued that politicians shouldn’t be dictating how parents provide healthcare to their children, while Hoylman shot back, “You’re right, doctors should, and they have.”
Protesters at the forum periodically disrupted the main event with chants such as “Shame on you” and “Let them in,” referring to people who were standing in the hallway waiting to be allowed inside. Both Hoylman and Krueger were greeted with a mixture of applause and boos when introduced and Councilmember Carlina Rivera asked that the protesters show the panelists respect.
Tenants both inside and outside the auditorium during the event were frustrated that the protesters were interrupting the speakers, with attendees inside yelling at those who were chanting to stop (“Or I’ll throw you out myself, don’t think I won’t,” own woman promised) and others unable to get inside at all because the venue was at capacity.
Protesters handed out a sheet to attendees pointing to the specific legislation they were objecting to and specifically calling out the state legislators, including Hoylman and Krueger, as well as Assemblymembers Dan Quart, Yuh-Line Noh, Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick, who was also in attendance at the forum.
Glick received cheers from tenants at the beginning of the event for asking protesters to lower their signs so those who came to the event to learn more about the rent regulations could see the screen where a presentation was being displayed.
The Neighborhood Coordination Officers for the area from the 13th precinct, Mayela Arthur and Angela Villota, were outside the door letting people in as others left and told Town & Village that people were being kept out only because the auditorium was already full and it was a safety issue.
Barbara, a Stuyvesant Town resident who didn’t want to give her last name, got to the auditorium shortly after the forum was scheduled to begin but wasn’t allowed in until about an hour after it started.
“I understand people wanting to protest but I wanted to find out about this MCI business,” she said, referring to the issue of major capital improvements, which were discussed during the event. “A police officer had to come let us in, and we missed more than half.”
Another Stuyvesant Town resident left after about an hour, frustrated that the event had been disrupted.
“We came out of our way to come for an issue that was important to us,” she said. “I don’t think that people should come with secondary causes.”
UPDATE: Comments on this post specifically concerning the protest or vaccinations have been moderated because the topic does not pertain to what Town & Village covers, which is issues specific to the neighborhood.