ITHACA, N.Y.—New York Gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams made early forays into the Finger Lakes as he continued laying the routes of his campaign trail, appearing in the Village of Burdett to advocate for a moratorium of proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining, and in the City of Ithaca Tuesday to push “good cause eviction” legislation, and voice support for unionization efforts a at local Starbucks

Williams’ campaign stops outside of his New York City stomping grounds reflect the playbook he used to get elected to New York City Council, and then New York City Public Advocate: Tapping into and energizing grassroots movements to raise his profile and the legislation he supported. 

In downtown Ithaca on Tuesday, Williams met with Ithaca Tenants Union (ITU) activist Genevieve Rand, members of Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America, as well as Ithaca Common Council members Jorge DeFendini and Phoebe Brown at the Multicultural Resource Center.  

Williams voiced his support for “right to renew” or “good cause eviction” legislation that the groups have been pushing in the City of Ithaca. Alderpersons DeFendini and Brown ran together on the Solidarity Slate, a coalition of political candidates. Both endorsed Williams’ candidacy on Tuesday.

In simple terms, the laws raise the criteria landlords need to meet to not renew a lease, such as a renter violating the terms of the lease. There is currently no requirement under New York State law that a landlord explain why they chose not to renew a lease. Ithaca’s right to renew legislation also includes other provisions, like minimizing increases on rent hikes.

Good cause eviction has moved through City government in fits and starts before it was put on the back burner in December. Months of drafting mixed with conflicting feedback on the contents of the law from groups like ITU and Ithaca-area landlords came to a halt soon after a lawsuit was filed against the City of Albany for similar legislation. At the start of this pause, both groups found the drafted law unfair to their respective interests, but city government is playing ‘wait and see’ before charting it’s next move on ‘Right to Renew‘ legislation

About a month later, Hochul decided not to renew the state’s eviction moratorium, which expired on Jan. 15. 

“I never want to demonize any group of folks, but we are facing it right now. A crisis of epic proportions,” said Williams, referring to the wave of evictions that are being processed in courts across the state and in the City of Ithaca.

“I think the governor may not understand the magnitude of the problem, or doesn’t have the courage and ability to face demands,” said Williams during his remarks Tuesday.

Similar good cause eviction laws have been passed in Newburgh,Hudson, Poughkeepsie, and most recently Kingston. There is also pronounced support in New York City, as well as some on the state level.

Referring to good cause eviction laws, Williams said, “We need these protections, and hopefully as cities and municipalities start to do it, we can push Albany to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Hopefully soon we’ll have a governor that won’t need much convincing to get this done.”

Attorney General Letitia James voiced her support of good cause eviction legislation before dropping out of the Governor’s race. Hochul, for her part, has been quiet on the issue.

In his final stop in Ithaca, Williams made a pit stop at a Starbucks location telling workers there he supports their unionization efforts in Ithaca, and ordered a “union strong” cup of coffee to-go, promising he’ll be back.

On Monday, Williams’ spoke at an event in Burdett hosted by Seneca Lake Guardian at Forge Cellars. Seneca Lake Guardian has been drumming up opposition against proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining—a highly energy intensive blockchain technology—since it became public knowledge that Greenidge Generation, a gas-fired power plant in the Town of Torrey, was generating electricity to power a bitcoin mining operation.

Critics of Greenidge and bitcoin mining in general cite its high energy demands, and the greenhouse gas emissions that come as a consequence. The act stands to test New York’s flagship climate legislation, the Community Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Seneca Lake Guardian, the Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, and Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-Ithaca) have been at the forefront of a coalition calling on Governor Hochul to push for a moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining, likening it to the movement to ban fracking in New York state.

Williams said on Monday that he wants a moratorium on proof-of-stake cryptocurrency mining until regulations are developed even if that meant Hochul, his political opponent in the upcoming June primaries, were to pass it.

“That would be a great win as well,” said Williams, who ran against and lost to Hochul for the position of Lt. Governor in 2018.

Assemblymember Kelles originally proposed the moratorium in the last legislative session. It passed in the Senate, but stalled in the assembly in part due to labor opposition.

Kelles wrote that she hasn’t spoken with Williams, but she “appreciates his elevating this issue across the state” and growing the coalition opposed to it.

“I’m here to hopefully provide some courage to our current governor to do the right thing and stop this from going on,” said Williams.

Williams’ appearance and clear opposition to the burgeoning industry stands in contrast to the  “largely opaque” stance of the Hochul administration, writes POLITICO.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn