Greenpoint residents rally against new shelter
Say Apollo Street site planned with little community input
Say Apollo Street site planned with little community input
Protestors say homeless shelters decrease quality of life
Regarding Jessica Meditz’s article on September 1 (“Sliwa on homeless crisis”), in his interview with this paper’s editorial board, GOP mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa vowed to close 26 shelters filled with mentally ill and drug-addicted homeless people.
He blamed Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks for forcing homeless shelters “down people’s throats with no transparency or discussion.” Sliwa promised to fire banks if he becomes mayor.
But his opponent Eric Adams has a different view. He told news media that Banks “is
doing amazing things” and hinted that he might retain Banks if he wins. That’s like putting an arsonist in charge of the FDNY.
Before joining the de Blasio administration, Banks spent 33 years with the Legal Aid Society advocating for the homeless. He filed a lawsuit resulting in a milestone 2008 settlement creating a permanent right-to-shelter law for the homeless in New York City.
New York is the only U.S. city that has such a law. During his tenure as mayor, Mike Bloomberg blamed the law for attracting people from all over the country to the city for a free roof over their heads.
He urged its elimination. Our next mayor must do the same and gain support from City Hall and Albany to make it happen. Readers should urge their representatives in the City Council and state legislature to revoke this wasteful law.
Kew Gardens Hills
Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa met with this paper’s editorial board last week to discuss a handful of city issues and how he would navigate them if elected.
One of the most pressing issues he touched on is the treatment of homeless people and emotionally disturbed persons in the city.
Sliwa can be seen on social media interacting with homeless people who are living on the streets and in the subways, and often calls out officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio and his democratic opponent, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, for not doing the same.
Sliwa believes that homeless outreach efforts have taken a turn for the worse as a result of the police being defunded by $1 billion, which he says severely impacted the Homeless Outreach Unit.
“Cops would go into the shelters, they would go into the hotels,” he said. “They would deal with EDPs and homeless people, more so than at the precinct level.”
Sliwa would close the 28 MICA shelters, which deal with mentally-ill and substance-abusing people, in the city.
“Those have to be closed,” he said. “You can’t have emotionally disturbed persons in shelters, they need care. They need to be in a mental healthcare hospital getting their meds.”
He supports reopening Camp LaGuardia upstate, a facility for the mentally ill and substance abusers that was closed during the Bloomberg administration.
Sliwa argues the camp would allow these individuals to overcome their substance abuse problems, as well as offer job training that may assist them with employment opportunities in the future.
Last month, Sliwa led a rally to celebrate local efforts that prevented the city from housing homeless people at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, but said the issue of using hotels to house the homeless is an issue for many neighborhoods.
Sliwa said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks “shoved these shelters down people’s throats” with no transparency or discussion. The argument is that the hotels allow homeless people who need shelter to remain in their community where they have a support system
But Sliwa says he has had conversations with homeless individuals living in hotel shelters far from where they are originally from.
The mayoral hopeful says he requested a meeting with Governor Kathy Hochul to discuss his opposition to legislation that would allow the state to buy hotels currently housing the homeless to make them permanent shelters. Sliwa says he has not heard back.
“A man or a woman, single, able-bodied should be able to have their own apartment, not have to live in a shelter in a dormitory-style way in which it’s not healthy for them,” he said. “They’re constantly being preyed on, it’s Darwinian.
“I’ve been in enough of them in which the shelter guards, whether they’re private security or Department of Homeless Services, have a no-touch policy,” Sliwa added “How are you going to control some people who are going to use force to try to shake down and extort other homeless people?”
Local residents gathered outside the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth to mark the 5th anniversary of the successful protests that stopped the city from housing the homeless at the hotel.
“They came to Maspeth and they thought they could force a shelter on us, but they had another thing coming because the people know how to fight,” one attendee told the crowd.
The rally also offered the opportunity to speak out about the city’s current homeless policies.
“That’s not what these hotels and motels were built for,” said mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa at the rally. “That’s what they should not be repurposed into.”
The Republican candidate recommended the city consider housing the homeless in commercial areas where warehouses are empty.
Attendees at the rally also called for the removal of Staeven Banks, who is commissioner of the Human Resources Adminstration/Department of Homeless Services. Banks has defended the city’s response to the homeless crisis, arguing that agencies at the state level are more to blame.
“There’s so much public focus on how the city should do more, but the state disinvestment is totally lost, we’re making up for them,” Banks said during a virtual City Council budget hearing earlier in the year. “There’s a real danger that New York state is going to continue to withdraw from providing support for the social safety net in New York City.”
Phil Wong, president of the Chinese-American Citizens Alliance, lives behind the Pan-American Hotel on Queens Boulevard, which serves as a homeless shelter for families. He said he saw children struggle to adapt to remote learning during the pandemic because of a lack of resources.
“Meanwhile, what do you see? Homeless under the LIE, in the subways and sleeping in parks,” he said. “So we are looking at outright abuse of our tax dollars. We’re talking about systems of sources that have failed for the last seven years. Steven Banks has to go.”
I’m a veteran and have been homeless for almost two years. My patience has run out.
I have been in numerous shelters during those two years. At present, I’m at a shelter at 22 Sumner Place for the elderly. All day we just sit in our room. There are no programs to entertain us.
The staff wishes to help us, bu the higher-ups do not give the staff funds to purchase things to keep our minds active.
Other shelters get the funds to keep their clients happy. They go to the movies or they go bowling.
They also have people who work there to find permanent housing quickly. At my current shelter, there is only one person to help find housing for over 100 residents. There are people here who have been waiting for housing for over a year.
I feel like they just want us to die here.
Many of us at the shelter are veterans. We stood up when we were called to defend this country with our lives. Now people write about the issues facing veterans, but there is no action from the government.