Costa Lambrou ’16, whose family runs Lambrou Real Estate and rents apartments to around 400 Cornell students, said a rent freeze would have to be accompanied by help for landlords.

Calls for Ithaca Rent Freeze Ramp Up; Mayor Supportive but Calls on Federal Government to Act

This post has been updated. 

With the COVID-19 outbreak requiring most New York State residents to stay home and stripping thousands of workers of their jobs, activists are calling for a rent freeze to protect Ithacans who have lost income. The Ithaca Tenants Union and a group of local activists is pressuring Ithaca’s mayor and Common Council members ahead of Wednesday’s council meeting. An online petition circulated by the ITU has over 4,300 signatures as of Monday afternoon. “With massive job losses already beginning now, how can we be expected to retroactively pay our rent when this crisis is over?” reads the petition, which demands Ithaca rents be “frozen by city legislative action immediately until the COVID-19 crisis passes.”

Genevieve Rand, a local organizer and a leader of the local push for a rent freeze, told The Sun that the issue is important to thousands of Ithacans, many of whom may have lost their income in the wake of COVID-19 closures. The campaign wrote a letter to Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 on March 22, calling on him to institute a rent freeze through the powers of the Common Council.

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi

In ‘Public Health Plea’, Lombardi Urges Students to Stop Partying

But please understand – hosting or attending a large party is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing in this moment. There are many Cornellians and community members who are particularly vulnerable to this rapidly spreading virus. We are a small town that has a limited capacity to care for all of those who could be impacted should the virus continue to spread locally.

Collegetown Bagels is one of several local businesses likely to be impacted by Cornell's shift to online classes.

‘When Cornell Leaves, Our Business Goes Away’: Ithaca Businesses Brace for Impact of C.U.’s Move to Online Classes

“We used to have a nine-month business and now we’re down to seven,” Collegetown Bagels and Rulloff’s owner Gregor Brous said. “So if we lose April and May then we’re down to five this year.” George Papachryssanthou, who owns a downtown restaurant and two Collegetown stores, said “There’s no way to sugarcoat it. … It’s gonna hurt.”