Oct. 16, 2019 By: Allie Griffin
Members of the Ridgewood Tenants Union penned a letter Monday to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asking that he take disciplinary action against Council Member Robert Holden.
The Ridgewood Tenants Union (RTU), a grassroots housing group that fights displacement, holds Holden responsible for a series of chaotic and ugly scenes that took place at a hearing last week on the planned 200-single-men shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave in Glendale.
The union has called on the speaker to strip Holden from his membership on several committees, including as chairperson of the Technology Committee.
The group blamed Holden for a number of controversial statements made at the Oct. 7 meeting, hosted by Community Board 5.
One woman called the homeless “drug addicts and sexual offenders” as well as “lowlife pieces of crap,” while another woman said, “I hope somebody’s gonna burn the place down” — and received applause and cheers from the hundreds who filled the auditorium the night of the hearing.
The RTU holds Holden accountable for these comments.
“This public hearing turned into a hateful mob and Council Member Robert Holden is to blame for his fear mongering that culminated that night in some of the worst behavior we have ever witnessed,” the letter stated.
The RTU further criticized Holden for not condemning the speakers after they made these statements.
“At the October hearing, he remained silent when he could have easily spoken up, as a voice of reason to say threats against the homeless should not be allowed or tolerated,” the letter stated.
Holden did not speak out against the comments during the hearing, but tweeted a response denouncing them the following afternoon.
“I understand that my neighbors are frustrated, but comments like this are dangerous and uncalled for,” Holden wrote. “Making such threats serves nobody, and I’m very disappointed with how this meeting is being portrayed as a result.”
However, the RTU was not satisfied with his tweet and also condemned the statements he made at a separate town hall meeting on the shelter in September.
The group said Holden used harmful rhetoric and played into the stereotypes of the homeless by saying they were dangerous and “will never assimilate into the neighborhood” at his Sept. 19 town hall.
The RTU members rebuked Holden for running a campaign against the shelter since it was first proposed — which they said has taken an unfortunate turn.
“This fight of his has turned ugly and in his mission to block the shelters, he has created deep fear against the homeless,” the RTU wrote.
“We see this as an environment of hate towards the homeless that Council Member Holden has created in all his years of organizing to block the shelter from opening,” the union added.
A spokesperson for the council member said that Holden had no comment on the letter.
This morning we sent an letter to @NYCSpeakerCoJo calling for disciplinary action on @BobHoldenNYC for his disparaging speech against the homeless & the fear mongering he engages in that creates a dangerous environment of hate. @NYCCouncil act now!
Please share this widely. pic.twitter.com/MfCVK8cr5i
— Ridgewood Tenants Union (@RidgewdTenantsU) October 15, 2019