“Stop ignoring us”: Community members call on State Representative Marianne Buttenschon to support legislation on housing, childcare

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Central New York, Press Releases

Utica residents have been trying to meet with Buttenschon for over a year, demand accountability


February 22, 2023 (Utica, NY) – Today, Utica residents, community leaders, advocates and members of Citizen Action of New York joined together for a press conference and rally to highlight constituents’ needs in housing and childcare after numerous failed attempts to meet with Assemblymember Buttenschon to discuss these matters. Speakers called on Buttenschon to pass Good Cause housing protections and universal child care legislation.

These bills are all part of Citizen Action’s Our Justice Agenda, a comprehensive platform that recognizes the interconnectedness of progressive issues and the well-being of everyday New Yorkers. Strong and healthy communities require investment, this is what Utica residents want prioritized.  By making the wealthy and big corporations pay what they owe, people and communities have what they need to thrive. 

“Before the pandemic, there were 22 open daycare facilities with 1,452 seats. There are now nine fully operating childcare facilities with only 746 seats,” said Enoshja Ruffin, Community Organizer for Citizen Action’s Central New York chapter. “That is a 48% decrease in available seats. All these facilities have a six month to year long waitlist, are likely short staffed, and none provide transportation. The term ‘child care desert’ is an understatement here in Utica.”

“We’re here today calling on Marianne Buttenschon to stop ignoring us, and listen to the people who put her into office. Both the child care and housing crises have become an overwhelming issue within our communities here in Utica and across the state,” said Jamina Lilley, member of Citizen Action’s Central New York chapter. “Therefore, we urgently need her to show up for them, in the same way they showed up for her by supporting the Good Cause Housing and Universal Child Care bills because families and children in Utica cannot afford to wait.” 

“Here in Utica, we live in a child care desert, with the worst childhood lead poisoning in the state, in a city with a housing shortage verging on a crisis,” said Citizen Action Lead Organizer Senya Bekui.  “Marianne Buttenschon’s constituents need her to wake up and listen to the people working to solve these issues. Passing needed legislation like Good Cause and HAVP, the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act, and Solutions Not Suspensions is what Central New Yorkers demand.”

“We all want to live in a community, in a New York State, where people are thriving,” said Citizen Action Member Diane Berry. “Our Justice Agenda identifies so many of the changes we need to make to get there, especially in regards to housing justice. Good Cause tenant protections would prevent landlords from kicking people out of their homes for capricious things like demanding repairs or reporting code violations.”

“People deserve to live in safe and dignified housing,” said Pastor Mike Ballman of Cornerstone Community Church and member of Citizen Action. “Homelessness is solvable: the legislation that makes up Our Justice Agenda would take steps to do that. We can get more people access to housing, as well as support folks and keep them in already-existing homes if we pass these bills.”

“As a mom and daycare provider, it’s so important to me that our government stands up to support families who need child care,” said Brianna Edwards, operator of a local child care center and member of Citizen Action. “Before I opened my center, I was constantly struggling, relying on family members with varying schedules, and seeing my friends and neighbors being denied child care assistance because they made ‘just enough’ not to qualify, but also not enough to pay their bills. Our government can do so much to help by investing our public money in the things that will make life a little more manageable—like we need universal child care. We need it now.” 

The press conference was held in front of the Utica State Office Building at 12:00 PM on Wednesday, 2/22. It was one of seven press conferences happening simultaneously around the state, in each of Citizen Action’s chapter regions. In the coming days, Citizen Action members will meet with state legislators representing Utica to thank them for their support and urge them to stand up for Our Justice Agenda bills.

Citizen Action of New York is a grassroots membership organization with eight chapters and affiliates across New York State. We work on issues important to our communities, including fair elections, equitable school funding, housing for all, environmental justice, and possibility not punishment.