2016-10-12 / Front Page

Officials Condemn Mayor’s Approach To Homeless Crisis

Queens elected officials stood side by side Thursday on the steps of City Hall to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration provide realistic, effective solutions to New York City’s homelessness crisis. City Council Members Elizabeth Crowley and Barry Grodenchik, along with state Senators Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. and Jose Peralta, condemned the mayor’s treatment of homelessness and shortsighted policies.
They said the mayor’s policy of converting commercial hotels into shelters for families is no solution for the 60,000 homeless people in New York City.
“The mayor has tried to pat himself on the back for reducing the homeless population, but the truth remains – homelessness in New York City is at an all-time high. In February, after a family was murdered in a hotel shelter, the mayor said his goal was to ultimately stop using hotels for homeless shelters. Today, the number of homeless people in hotels has more than doubled,” Crowley said.
“The administration continues to go back and forth on its proposals, and it seems they are just playing one bad game of telephone – there is no clear communication. The difference being that they are dealing with peoples’ lives, and a serious crisis that needs a solution. We have increased spending on homelessness by hundreds of millions of dollars, but have seen no results, just shortsighted proposals and ineffective strategies,” Crowley continued.
The elected officials suggested alternatives such as restoring and preserving cluster shelter sites, using city funds to provide rent subsidies, capitalize on vacant land for temporary shelters or utilizing thousands of foreclosed homes throughout the city.
Since the mayor took office, the Department of Homeless Services’ budget has increased by more than $200 million.
“I stood with my Queens colleagues in support of a long-term solution for the homeless crisis. The utilization of hotels to house homeless families in Queens is not sustainable, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and with the administration in pursuing systemic solutions,” Grodenchik said.
Addabbo said, “Forcing homeless families into small, unlivable rooms with no kitchens, no public transportation and no access to vital community resources is not a way to help those in need and simply trying to get back on their feet. Every attempt to convert another hotel into a shelter is more proof that Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Homeless Services are not interested in providing a real, long-term solution for these individuals – many of whom are disabled, children, senior citizens and veterans. Instead, this administration is dictating to put all its energy into shutting out the community and the elected officials who represent these areas where shelters continue to mysteriously appear with no warning or public input. The Mayor’s current policy is nothing but a waste of billions of taxpayer dollars being spent on creating glorified prisons, where shelter residents are forced to go through a metal detector every time they enter the building and obey a curfew enforced by round-the-clock security. It is not difficult to see that there are better alternatives for dealing with this problem, such as building modular housing on vacant land, or providing New Yorkers with increased rent subsidies to prevent them from losing their homes in the first place. Our problem is not that there is no solution, but rather that City Hall remains uninterested in working with us to make the changes necessary to put an end to this crisis once and for all.”
“The Department of Homeless Services does not have a good reputation in my district. This particular city agency lied to us on more than one occasion as it was maneuvering under the public’s radar to transform hotels into homeless shelters. There is the West Way, The Landing, the Holiday Inn. Unfortunately, lying is in the DNA of DHS. We understand there is a need to house homeless New Yorkers, but this should be done with proper community input and increasing the already limited public services,” Peralta said.
“And all the efforts, all the money, all the plans this and past Administrations have put in place to solve this crisis have a common denominator: Shoving homeless shelters down our communities’ throats. And if anyone complains, here comes the Administration saying that we, as elected officials, don’t care about poor people. That our communities don’t care about New Yorkers going through some bad times. Nothing could be further from the truth. The way this Administration and this Department of Homeless Services is handling this crisis is nothing but a mess. Converting hotels into shelters is not a solution. It is time for the stakeholders involved to sit down and seek real, viable solutions,” Peralta noted.
“Relying on patchwork fixes, like converting hotels into permanent shelters, fails to scale to the actual scope of the problem. It doesn’t benefit the homeless; it only benefits hotel operators who rake in exorbitant amounts of taxpayer dollars. Homeless New Yorkers should not be warehoused in kitchenless rooms that are as dilapidated as they are unsafe, especially not when fewer City and state dollars could get them far more dignified accommodations. It is not enough to simply say that these hotels are better than the street; that would be setting a shamefully low bar. It is time to stop sweeping New Yorkers who have fallen on hard times under the rug and find actual solutions,” said Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya.

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