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Hundreds March Through Corona Sunday, Demand Billionaires Pay More Taxes

Demonstrators at the “Barrios Not Billionaires” march Sunday (Photo provided by Yael Fisher)

Aug. 10 2020 By Michael Dorgan

More than 300 people marched through Corona Sunday demanding that New York’s billionaires pay more taxes to help the cash-strapped state get through the current economic crisis.

The protesters were calling on the ultra-rich to pay more to ensure that the state isn’t forced to cut services given the loss of revenue since COVID-19 hit. They also want billionaires to pay taxes that would help out-of-work New Yorkers–specifically those ineligible for unemployment insurance–through the creation of a fund.

The protesters were critical of Governor Andrew Cuomo who has not backed legislation that would tax billionaires. Cuomo has resisted, saying that such taxes would cause the wealthy to flee.

The rally, dubbed Barrios Not Billionaires and organized by Make the Road New York, started at Corona Plaza at around 2:30 p.m. with participants marching to LeFrak City – a major apartment complex in Corona and parts of Elmhurst.

The protesters have taken issue with Richard LeFrak – the head of the LeFrak Organization – because he is a major donor to Cuomo and his family that built the complex is worth billions.

Representatives from groups such as Desis Rising Up and Moving, the New York Immigration Coalition and New York Communities for Change were in attendance.

State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz and Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa were among several elected officials to attend the demonstration.

The attendees shouted slogans in Spanish and held signs such as “tax the rich, fund excluded workers” and “cancel COVID debt”.

The protest included costumed dancers and featured music from mariachi bands. Others drummed plastic buckets and blew whistles.

One large banner carried by protesters read “Gov. Cuomo whose side are you on?”

The organizers of the event say that the state’s 119 billionaires can afford to pay more taxes because  their collective wealth increased by more than $77 billion during the first three months of the shutdown, citing data from Forbes. The state, they say, needs help in covering a $14 billion deficit projected for 2021.

They argue that LeFrak can pay more, noting that his net worth increased by 30 percent during the pandemic, to $3.6 billion, citing Forbes data.

The protest march came to an end outside 59-17 Junction Blvd. where organizers and elected officials spoke to the crowd.

Angeles Solis, lead organizer at Make the Road New York, said workers who are unable to get unemployment insurance are struggling to find work in order to pay for essential living costs– and need help. She said that these workers are also at risk of contracting the virus by taking on certain jobs.

Solis said that a small tax on billionaires like LeFrak is more than enough to pay for a fund to cover unemployment insurance for excluded workers.

“We must fund excluded workers now,” Solis said.

Ramos, who has introduced a bill to create such a fund said that billionaires like LeFrak have been “making a killing” during the pandemic. She said that her bill would raise $5.5 billion by requiring billionaires to pay tax on their unrealized capital gains.

“That sounds like a lot of money to us, because it is, but it’s not a lot of money to them,” Ramos said.

Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa, who supports Ramos’ bill, said that it was time for the state taxation system to be reimagined to ensure that the most vulnerable are able to survive.

“New York needs a worker bailout fund because it is not sufficient for us to depend on essential workers without ensuring that they are protected,” she said.

Ramos’ bill is one of several pieces of legislation to be introduced before the state legislature that aims to bring in tax revenue from billionaires.

The bills include taxes on share buybacks and high-priced properties.

Demonstrators at the “Barrios Not Billionaires” march Sunday (Photo provided by Yael Fisher)

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