Descendants of the New Deal Architects Advocate for the Protection of the Right to Shelter in Powerful Letter to Governor Hochul

The grandchildren of the original architects of the New Deal wrote an impassioned letter to Governor Kathy Hochul calling on her to honor the legacy and values championed by their grandparents by refraining from eroding New York’s legal Right to Shelter. The letter was signed by James Roosevelt, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, Henry Scott Wallace, and June Hopkins, who as a group actively work to promote and protect the legacy of the New Deal nationwide.

In their letter, they make the connection between the purpose and impact of the New Deal and New York’s legal Right to Shelter.

The Great Depression was amongst the worst internal crises faced by our country, and the progressive response of FDR and his cabinet with the implementation of the New Deal and the Social Security Act of 1935 fundamentally changed the relationship between the American people and their government. At a time when millions were devasted by hunger, homelessness, and poverty, the federal government for the first time formally recognized its responsibility to provide for the social and economic welfare of the citizens of the United States. The progressivism of the New Deal expanded beyond the federal government and influenced New York’s response to poverty and homelessness. The 1938 NY State Constitutional Convention of 1938, deemed the ‘People’s Convention,’ resulted in the inclusion of Article XVII, which states.

The aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions, and in such manner and by such means, as the legislature may from time to time determine.

It is this provision of the State constitution that New York’s legal Right to Shelter is based.

New York City stands apart from other municipalities in our county because of the legal Right to Shelter, which has given hundreds of thousands of individuals an alternative to bedding down on the streets. For over 42 years, this fundamental right has served as a baseline of humanity and decency in New York City – but is currently under attack by Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul, at a time when New York’s housing and homelessness crisis is at its worst point in nearly a century.

Thousands of new arrivals come to our city from countries across the world in search of a better life for themselves and their families. At the same time, our city has seen an increase in homelessness driven by post-pandemic economic conditions and the expiration of pandemic-era protections. Abandoning the Right to Shelter would be an overt rejection of New York’s values, as enshrined in our constitution 85 years ago, and would result in countless vulnerable people being relegated to sleeping unsheltered on the streets.

The New Deal descendants end their letter urging Governor Hochul to uphold the values of the New Deal and to never forget that “the aid, care, and support of the needy are public concerns.”