Ithaca Alderperson Ducson Nguyen, who sponsored the resolution, says it was only possible because of intense pressure from the Ithaca Tenants Union and its supporters. The group had initially asked for a change to the city code, Nguyen says, but members of the Common Council told them that it was almost certain to fail. Even the resolution requesting executive authority nearly failed, eventually passing by a vote of 6-4. Nguyen says he’s not holding out hope that the Department of Health will approve the request.
“We were honest that it was a longshot, but it was a catalyst for other activism,” Nguyen says. “And [hopefully] it gets the state’s attention. Even if they turn us down, it is a clear sign that there’s a crisis.”
In the event that the state does approve the request, Nguyen says, the mayor still won’t act unilaterally, but instead create a task force that would sort through the most effective ways to cancel rent debt for tenants while protecting small landlords from foreclosure in the process.