De Blasio and Cuomo Spar Over Homelessness, Again

A homeless woman in Manhattan

A homeless woman in Manhattan. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Thanksgiving is typically a time to think of the less fortunate—or in the case of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, to trade the blame for their plight.

Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, both Democrats, squabbled yet again today over the causes of a growing homeless population in New York City’s streets, with the governor saying it’s an issue not of money but of management and smarts, while the mayor pointed out that the state, under Mr. Cuomo, had cut funding for rental assistance in 2011.

“Throwing money at the problem is not always the answer,” Mr. Cuomo said today. “It’s understanding the problem and being smart enough to know how to manage the problem.”

The mayor fired back, pointing to statistics showing the population in the shelters and on the streets began to spike in the final years of the Bloomberg administration. Mr. de Blasio pinned the blame on rising cost of living, a poor and on his predecessor and the governor for ending housing programs for the indigent, particularly the end of the Advantage rental subsidy program in 2011.

“He obviously isn’t looking at the facts,” Mr. de Blasio said. “In fact, resources matter a lot in addressing this problem. They certainly matter in terms of creating the supportive housing we need to get out of this problem in the longterm. They matter in terms of creating rent subsidies and anti-eviction legal services.”

The population of New Yorkers in homeless shelters grew during former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, from 31,063 in 2001 to 53,173 in December 2013, according to city shelter censuses. That figure continued to rise under Mr. de Blasio, to a high of 60,939 in January 2015, before falling down to 59,305 last month.

The population of New Yorkers living on the streets actually decreased under Mr. Bloomberg, according to the annual Hope count of homeless people on streets each February. The number of unsheltered New Yorkers counted was 4,395 in 2005 when the survey began, and fluctuated over the years before landing at 3,180 in 2013, Mr. Bloomberg’s final year in office. The population was at 3,357 in 2014, when the survey was taken just over a month into Mr. de Blasio’s tenure. In 2015, the first full year under Mr. de Blasio, the figure was, 3,182, down from 2014 and two people higher than 2013.

But Mr. Cuomo argued other mayors, including Mr. Bloomberg, had dealt with homelessness better and argued it “doesn’t have to be this way.” And he seized on comments made last week by Mr. de Blasio’s own police commissioner, Bill Bratton, that homelessness had “exploded” under the mayor and that the mayor had made a “mistake” in not recognizing it sooner.

“I think probably the most visible symbol of the need that is out there is the homeless problem that is in the City of New York. It has been getting worse and worse and worse. It hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, in my opinion,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I agree with Police Commissioner Bratton who said last week there was a growing problem, it should’ve been acknowledged, he was exactly right.”

Mr. Cuomo even got another de Blasio foe, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, in on the action.

“It took longer than it needed to for the mayor and City Hall to acknowledge the problem. That’s not my position, that’s not the governor’s position, that’s Commissioner Bratton’s position,” Mr. Jeffries said. “So there clearly was a leadership breakdown that the police commissioner himself has indicated.”

Despite Mr. Cuomo’s insistence that the money was not the most important factor, his office has frequently responded to criticism from City Hall by pointing out that the state spent nearly $1 billion on homelessness this year, with $700 million going to homeless services and housing and $125 million to rental subsidies.

 

De Blasio and Cuomo Spar Over Homelessness, Again