Today, City Council Speaker and likely 2013 mayoral candidate Christine Quinn won her lawsuit against the Bloomberg administration’s policy of asking single adults seeking space in homeless shelters to prove they have no alternative housing. In a statement on the court decision, Ms. Quinn called it a “tremendous victory” against a “wrong-headed policy.”
“Today’s Court ruling declaring the Department of Homeless Services’ eligibility requirements for single homeless adults unlawful is a tremendous victory and I commend the Court for its action,” Ms. Quinn said. “This was a wrong-headed policy that put a burden of proof on people who could least shoulder it.”
Ms. Quinn normally enjoys a rather cozy relationship with City Hall and this lawsuit was the first time the City Council sued the Bloomberg administration during Ms. Quinn’s six year tenure as Council speaker.
Ms. Quinn’s suit specifically accused the Bloomberg administration of ignoring requirements to notify the public and allow comment before making the policy change.
“The Court’s confirmation that policy changes such as this one must be subject to public notice and comment will ensure that we will be able to work with DHS to create a new policy that will protect, not hurt, the City’s homeless. Moreover, this decision is a victory for all New Yorkers, because it reaffirms that the administration cannot ignore Charter provisions that require agencies to be transparent and accountable to the public,” Ms. Quinn said.
When news of the suit first broke last November, DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond told the New York Times the administration adequately allowed the policy to be reviewed.
“We gave two weeks’ notification to Legal Aid,” Mr. Diamond said. “I testified in front of the City Council for several hours and answered all of their questions. We are participating in a judicial review of the policy. We think we have provided an opportunity for people who are concerned to review the policy.”
The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless worked with the City Council in the lawsuit. Ms. Quinn’s press release about the court decision also included statements from Coalition for the Homeless Senior Policy Analyst Patrick Markee and Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society.
“The Court’s decision puts a stop to the Department of Homeless Services’ misguided and dangerous plan to erect new bureaucratic barriers at the shelter door,” Mr. Markee said. “It should not have taken a judge to stop the City from implementing this dangerous policy.”
“We greatly appreciate the leadership of the Speaker and the City Council in this matter,” Mr. Banks said.
Ms. Quinn, who is widely expected to earn Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement in the race to succeed him has stressed the lawsuit doesn’t indicate a strain in her relationship with City Hall.
“It says nothing about my relationship with the mayor,” she told the Times. “It says that we have an issue where the mayor and his administration and I disagree.”
Update — DHS Commissioner Diamond sent the following statement on the ruling:
“Today’s ruling focused only on the administrative process used to communicate the eligibility procedure for single adults entering the City’s shelter system. Judge Gische’s disappointing decision does not undermine the City’s strong reasons for developing this common sense procedure, nor does it make any determinations about its legality other than ruling on the method used to issue it. The City plans to appeal the decision.”