De Blasio Blames ‘Miscommunication’ for Spat Over Homeless Subsidies

Bill de Blasio today. (Photo: Ed Reed/NYC Mayor's Office)

Bill de Blasio today. (Photo: Ed Reed/NYC Mayor’s Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio today blamed “miscommunication” for his administration’s latest spat with the governor over a deal that would allow the state to subsidize rents for homeless families to transition out of the city’s crammed shelter system.

“You know, we talked about that priority several times in the last month publicly. But more importantly, there’s been a lot of communication with Albany about it. I think there’s also been some miscommunication and we want to resolve it,” Mr. de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference at City Hall today when asked whether his administration had dropped the ball on the issue by not making it a priority during his negotiations with Albany.

“This budget process–and Dean’s one of the world’s leading experts on it–it’s very intense, there’s a lot of moving parts,” he added, referring to his budget director, Dean Fuleihan. “It’s not shocking that some pieces might have gotten misunderstood or miscommunicated. Our job is to fix it and fix it quickly.”

Pressed to explain exactly what “miscommunication” he was referring to, Mr. de Blasio remained vague.

“Again, I don’t want to get into what was over months and months of dialogue where a miscommunication may have occurred. I’m simply saying, if there has been a miscommunication, we’re going to fix it,” he said.

Despite City Hall’s claims to the contrary, Gov. Andrew Coumo’s administration said yesterday that city officials had run out of time to reach an agreement that would allow state funds to be used to fund housing subsidies for the homeless as part of the state budget deal that is due next week. According to the Wall Street Journal, state officials said the city did not present a formal plan for the program and failed to schedule face-to-face meetings–instead focusing their energy on the mayor’s push for pre-K.

“As everyone knows, the budget is due in less than a week so we assume the city’s proposal will be for next year because at this point it’s too late to take up anything significant this year,” a spokeswoman for the governor told the paper.

“They never submitted a proposal or scheduled a meeting,” a state source added today.

Mr. Cuomo’s January budget specifically blocked the city from receiving state funds to create a new rental subsidy program to replace the Advantage program that was abandoned several years back.

At a City Council hearing yesterday, Gilbert Taylor, the city’s new Department of Homeless Services commissioner, said he would travel to Albany today to lobby for a change in that language, according to Capital New York.

“We just started our conversations in Albany and those conversations are moving forward,” he told reporters after the hearing, the website reported.

The mayor reportedly did not mention the issue when he traveled to Albany to testify on the governor’s budget proposal in January, weeks after taking office, instead dedicating his remarks to pressing lawmakers to approve his signature proposal to raise taxes on the city’s highest income-earners to fund universal pre-K and after-school programs. The likelihood of such a tax being approved remains slim.

Still, the mayor sounded optimistic when it comes to homeless funding.

“We think there’s a lot of shared ground on this one,” he said, praising Mr. Cuomo’s past work on homelessness issues.

“He has an extraordinary record of achievement in addressing homelessness,” he continued. “So we’re going to make sure that we communicate well today and in the days following and we’re hopeful that we can get” something done.

Update (4:13 p.m): Mr. Cuomo responded to the dispute at his own press conference today, saying that the mayor’s request for money had “probably” come too late to make it into the budget but that the pair were still in talks.

“Where we are on all these issues: it’s very late in the budget process,” he said. “I understand Mayor de Blasio’s issues on the homeless. It’s an issue that we’ve worked on together for a long time. We worked at [the federal Department of] Housing and Urban Development together, the mayor and I, before he was the mayor, obviously. So I’m very involved and concerned about those issues. Anything we can do, I would want to do.”

“It’s late in the day to put something in the actual budget because the budget train has basically left the station,” he added. “So to start a new proposal, it’s too late.”

Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, also weighed in.

“There is nothing stopping State officials from removing the restrictive budget rule that prevents a new rental subsidy,” he said in a statement forwarded by Mr. de Blasio’s former campaign spokesman. “Given the record levels of New York homelessness, especially among children and families, we cannot afford to wait another year to deal with this crisis.”