Housing Works Protests in Brooklyn Heights Against AIDS Funding Cuts

Several readers complained of being awakened or disturbed this morning by a noisy demonstration along Clark Street. We have learned that the protest was organized by Housing Works, the same folks who run the popular thrift shop on Montague near the corner of Henry Street.

It was aimed at Heights resident Robert Doar, Commissioner of the City’s Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services (pictured above), to call attention to planned changes and cuts in services offered to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Demonstrators gathered outside Commissioner Doar’s house “on a wealthy block” here, followed him along Clark Street to the subway, and rode with him to his place of work in Manhattan. Commissioner Doar has stated his views on this issue in a post on HuffPo.

(Photo: Housing Works)

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  • bkheightsgal

    I am all for protests and having a voice to the issues that matter. Making noise in front of someone’s home and following them to work is wrong and bordering on harassment.

    There are proper ways to protest cuts to services.

  • Miky

    Housing Works just lost my support and patronage. I have a sick infant at home. The drums and whistles of these idiots woke him up and left him sobbing for an hour. My next door neighbor just had chemo, feels terrible and they woke her up too.

    Too bad. Over the years I have donated many thousands of dollars of goods to Housing Works. And I have bought a significant amount there. I am done with them.

    This is no way to win friends and support. I don’t wish to be associated with them any further.

  • Publius

    Thanks to the first two whiners for NIMBYism at its finest.

  • PromGal

    Housing Works has a left wing political agenda that goes far beyond charity.
    In terms if priorities, there are ten times ten more men who die of prostate cancer and women of breast cancer than suffer from HIV/AIDS.
    They just don’t have as loud or as politically correct a voice.
    The sick child and cancer patient undergoing chemo are just as deserving of peace, quiet, and charity, not to mention common decency, as an extremely small politically powerful group.

  • resident

    Breast cancer and prostate cancer doesn’t have as loud a voice? I must have imagined all those people donning pink or all the relays for life walks or all the three day Avon walks…

    AIDS is still a worldwide epidemic. One could argue we have it sort of “under control” here, but until there’s a cure, it’s still a major need for HIV/AIDS funding. Not to mention that if you’re poor, surviving is much less likely.

    I too was trying to sleep this morning when I heard the protest. I’ll deal with 5 minutes disruption of my life.

  • BronxKid

    Ran into this crowd at Clark Street Station about 7:50 a.m. They were obnoxious and rude, banging on drums and playing tubas in the tunnel leading to the train, on the platform and on the train.

    Housing Works staff should know better!

  • David on Middagh

    Miky, and bkheightsgal,

    I’m not too happy with the neighbor-waking, noisemaking of the protesters. I think it’s awful that sick people who need their rest are woken up for–I won’t say “no good reason”, but–maybe thoughtlessly. In a press release apparently jointly issued by Housing Works and a group called VOCAL-NY, the board chair of V.-NY is quoted as saying:

    “Now that people like me are the face of AIDS, it feels like Doar is willing to destroy a safety net that was put into place at a time when HIV/AIDS wasn’t associated with poverty and people of color.”

    I guess she thought that people living on a nice block need their consciences raised, without considering exactly who was supporting the Housing Works store a few blocks away. Sigh.

    I remember when people were walking into Housing Works on Montague complaining about the obnoxious noise of the Verizon workers on strike down the street. It’s never good to alienate people who might already be on your side!

    I’m not sure how this protest was organized–I’m on the HW mailing list for sales & events, and I’m in the thrift store multiple times a week as a shop volunteer, and I heard not one request to participate. This blog post was actually the first I’d heard of it!

    But as some kind of local face of Housing Works, though my avatar is faceless, I would like to apologize for the annoyance. I love the thrift shop, and I’d hate for it to suffer due to the tactics of some people whose jobs and whose lives may become much harder if or when those cutbacks happen.

  • WillowtownCop

    Following someone from home to work because you don’t think the handout you’re getting from the government is big enough? What a world.

  • Christie

    Not nearly as annoying as the film crews taxpayer dollars are funding.

  • ABC

    i dont know anything about these proposed cuts but the “you woke my sick baby” argument is a little like saying, “hey, I was trying to order my lunch at that lunch counter”.

  • bkheightsgal

    Thanks David,

    Just to be transparent, I don’t live on that block where the noise was occurring.

    Just the other week I was in the Housing Works shop to buy a picture frame and had a nice feeling about the shop.

    I just feel as though, post OWS, people that are protesting are sometimes resorting to the wrong tactics. Nobody should be bothered at their home. It really crosses a line. In our society, with internet bringing all kinds of information to the people, boundaries are being crossed.

    Why couldn’t these people just stand outside Doar’s office? That would be appropriate.

    I am a native NY’er, not a NIMBY as one commenter stated. I love the noise that we have in the city. I love babies but hate the “Don’t make noise because you woke my baby” nonsense.

    There is a way to protest injustices and this wasn’t it.

    David your response is the classy antithesis to the behavior of this group. Thank you.

  • Tim N.

    I love how everyone supports a cause until they’re inconvenienced. It’s not like they marched through at four in the morning or stood on the block all day. Join the real world… you may find bigger problems than the ones that exist within your four walls.

  • Miky

    Just to be clear, I spend a very significant part of my private and professional existence assisting people and communities in dire need. Accuse me of NIMBYism or racism (implied by the lunch counter comment) all you want, but I suspect (without knowing for certain) that I do more on a daily basis to help human rights than you do all year long.

    Further, I am not afraid of noise. I live in New York City, after all. Horn honking, trucks, people yelling, etc. are part of my daily existence.

    That being said, when at 7 in the morning someone finds the need to bang a drum and blow a whiste for a prolonged period outside of my window, I draw the line. It frightened my sick baby to the point that he was inconsolable. And as any parent will tell you, there is no surer way to make an enemy of a parent than to assault that parent’s child.

    This does not mean that I don’t care about AIDS or the poor. It does mean, however, that someone’s opposition over a policy dispute does not trump my right and my family’s right to the quiet use and enjoyment of our home early in the morning. I would like to point out, further, that this is a policy dispute. Nobody, as far as I can tell, is interested in saying that the government has no role in helping AIDS patients. This is about the type and level of help. There are civil ways to make that point. And if civil paths are exhausted, there are more dramatic ways to make that point without catching up a number of innocent bystanders (who otherwise, incidentally, might have been sympathetic to your cause).

    And since a number of commenters here are in the business of drawing outrageous conclusions and comparisons, I will make one of my own. Your insistence that infringing the rights of any innocent bystander is worth it provided that the injustice you oppose is a greater evil is only a few steps removed from the rationale that permits fanatics to fly planes into buildings and blow-up cars, killing the innocent bystanders.

    Ultimately, when the spring rolls around and we clean out closets, I will find another cause to which to donate our belongings.

  • Miky

    By the way, ABC is an idiot. There is absolutely no logic to ABC’s statement.

  • harumph

    I’m with you Miky – a time and place for protests – reminds me of the Verizon strikers…..

  • Wrennie

    bkheighsgal, do you know what NIMBY stands for? Unless I’m reading your comment incorrectly, it sounds like you have no clue. How does being a native NY’er have anything to do with NIMBYism?

  • Hicks St Guy

    demonstrating in front of an individual’s residence, not their office, is over the top, what next?

  • Clarks

    There are really some jerks on this site. The folks complaining about the obnoxious protests (drums at 7 in the morning, really??) are not NIMBYs. They are reasonable. NIMBYism describes those who believe that certain services and structures (e.g. waste transfer stations, highways, etc.) may be necessary but they don’t want to personally be inconvenienced by them. I bet that those compaining of the noise would take the position that NOBODY should be inconvenienced by whistles blown outside their windows at 7 in the morning, not just them. If anything these people seem to be standing up for more decency, civility and respect in our community. And Buddy Holly’s comment is stupid. Is his logic that if you are standing up for someone less fortunate you can do whatever you want?

  • PromGal

    @Miky and others
    We can support the charities and causes if our choice without condoning the thugocracy tactics of personal intimidation used here.
    We find that the Plymouth Underground Thrift Shop, run by Plymouth Church, at 75 Hicks Street is a great place to donate and to buy.
    Plymouth has been contributing to neighborhood organizations of all denominations, senior center, nursing home, and homeless shelter, among others, for more than a century.
    All funds are completely accounted for and information is publically available.

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    I finally got together clothes to donate to St. Charles Jubilee at 55 Pierrepont but when I got there this afternoon I was told they were closed for renovation and will open again in April.
    I will most definitely go to the Plymouth Church thrift shop tomorrow.
    Thanks for the info.

  • Frenchbull

    Regardless of the cause or fund cuts, it is outrageous to go to someone’s home and follow them to work harassing them. I wish police had gotten involved. What’s next? A bodyguard for this guy? Whatever your political leanings are this is wrong. I have contributed greatly to Housing Works and am rethinking my next contribution to them-completely crazy tactics.

  • Governmentguy


    I agree with you. A few years ago I was asked to become a member of an NYC commission. It is a commission that routinely is the subject/target of newsworthy protests. After some thought, despite the prestige, I decided not to join. It was entirely based on the way members of the commission are treated by crazies (like the Housing Works protestors). I had no desire to be shouted down, burned in effigy or — as happened here — awoken by drums and whistles. It is too bad for the lefties — I probably would have sided with them on most issues. I just didn’t want to risk the hatred in the event that I didn’t allign myself with them 100%.

  • bkheightsgal

    I am glad that the level-headed types are speaking their voices.

    And Clarks thank you for correctly pointing out exactly what NIMBY stands for. It’s good to know someone knows the real meaning of the term.

  • ABC

    I don’t mind people thinking I’m an idiot. But if you think people being loud, in nyc, at 7AM is an “assault” to a child and that these protesters are comparable in any way to the 9/11 hijackers … well, I am especially okay with you thinking I’m an idiot.

  • willowbubb

    BOTTOM LINE…. MAKING A SCENE IN FRONT OF SOMEONE’S HOUSE AT ANY HOUR is harassment, following someone to the subway is border-line stalker, RIDING on the train with them to work while screaming is just psychotic. anyone who thinks this is normal needs to get their heads check. ALSO why all this hate for someone who was SIMPLY saying all the noise woke up their child? a person going through chemo-therapy? that doesn’t make you an idiot, just a un compassionate person. that’s really all it comes down too. Maybe you’re not a mother, a father.. someone with a child who would have any idea how hard it is to get a baby to go to sleep let alone stay asleep.. maybe you’re someone who has never been affected by cancer or known someone affected. Maybe some day you will be, maybe you won’t.. but jumping down someone’s throat for a fairly logical reason for being upset just seems cruel.

  • ABC

    this is nothing compared to what ACT UP used to do. and without ACT UP I am sure the US govt would have continued to do nothing on the AIDS epidemic.

    how about throwing blood on someone wearing a fur coat? extreme, right? but do you see many people wearing fur coats lately?

    I have kids and I have family who died of cancer, one as recently as this year. I also lived in NYC during the 80s and 90s and know a hell of a lot of people who died of AIDS. I have compassion… I have compassion.

  • Heightser

    I will never contribute to Housing Works again. I happen to know Robert Doer and his family, and they are very fine people. They do not deserve this kind of treatment. Keep work related issues at work. It’s pretty simple. Their neighbors don’t deserve this, nor does he. Everyone is entitled to do their job and go home.This is harassment. If I had seen this, I would have called the police, and I happen to personally disagree with this policy.

  • BH’er

    I agree that this crosses the line – protest all you want at the man’s place of business, but following him from his home and disturbing a peaceful neighborhood is inappropriate.

    These protestors have not won any sympathy with these tactics.

    I hope you will all join me in protesting Housing Works by not shopping there until they issue an apology and give assurances that this will not happen again.

    Let the cuts go long and deep, so long as this group resorts to activity like this. Make your voice heard on tv, the newspaper or any other appropriate venue. Not with drums at dawn in a residential area.

  • hickster

    Happy to see voices of reason make themselves visible on this thread. This battle should have been fought where it was started..the steps of city hall. I am sure the extra liberal lugnuts on here wouldn’t be so open-minded if antigay fundamentalists bumrushed larry kramer’s or christine quinn’s homes.

  • Ex-Heightster

    Too many self-centered, snobbish, protect-the-status-quo types on this thread!

    The protestors were obviously trying to make a big, necessary statement to help people who suffer from a serious disease! You can’t tolerate a little noise/inconvenience ONE MORNING IN YOUR LIFE for a very important cause like helping people with HIV/AIDS??? I’d have joined the protestors had I been lucky enough to still live in the Heights!