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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

De Blasio, Steve Banks and Andrew Cuomo have ALL Deepened NY’s HOMELESS CRISIS

De Blasio, Steve Banks and Andrew Cuomo have all deepened NY’s homeless crisis
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Steve Banks, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration.
Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio


Robert Holden

For any New Yorker who still believes the city’s Department of Homeless Services is capable of solving the homelessness crisis in Gotham, consider this: It took a global pandemic to convince the department’s leaders to address the ever-growing number of homeless individuals living in the subway system.
And after all that, the situation is still an infuriating mess, as The Post’s recent reporting shows. Commissioner Steven Banks has presided over six years of abject failure.
He needs to go.
Throughout his tenure, Banks has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on outreach teams that do nothing but look the other way when they find people sleeping on trains and platforms. When disturbing images — of trains filled with the homeless, their belongings and piles of trash — overran the news cycle this month, it finally became clear that the situation wasn’t safe for essential workers still riding the trains. Nor for the homeless, who were mostly not wearing masks.
But, of course, it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state-run MTA leadership who finally resolved to prevent the abuse of trains as shelters and to shut down stations for cleaning. When my City Council colleagues and I spoke out about the same problems, City Hall ignored us.
The recent crisis, by the way, offers only a snapshot of deeper failures that predate the pandemic and aren’t limited to Banks’ department.
I raised the issue of the homeless mentally ill at a 2019 budget hearing with ThriveNYC, whose leaders boasted that the benefits of its mental-health programs could be seen in every corner of the city, including the subways. Earlier that week, my office had received numerous calls about mentally ill homeless individuals causing problems on the M train.
Soon enough, the entire City Council was criticizing Thrive’s massive budget, but still nothing was done to address the homeless on subways.
In fact, months later, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli revealed that the primary subway outreach provider, Bowery Residents’ Committee, was completely failing to live up to the requirements in its multimillion-dollar contract.
Then there was Banks’ and de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” plan to build 90 homeless shelters throughout the city. Rather than working with communities to find proper shelter locations, Banks built massive warehouse shelters that shove hundreds of residents into an uncomfortable dormitory setting with no privacy or safety. He continually hires the same developers to do the work, lining their pockets so that they can donate to de Blasio’s next failed campaign.
As a result, more and more homeless individuals choose to stay on the streets and subways, rather than be herded through the dangerous shelter system like cattle.

The DHS couldn’t tell me how many people had been involuntarily removed from the subways for their own good months ago, and it still hasn’t given me a straight answer.
Even worse, Banks refuses to use existing statutes like Kendra’s Law that would help the homeless with mental illness get the treatment they desperately need. Banks and his staff insist that someone must “present a danger to themselves or others” before they take action. They sit back and wait for a tragedy to happen, like the tragedy that prompted Kendra’s Law in the first place.
It is also unclear how the administration defines “a danger.” DHS Deputy Commissioner Erin Drinkwater said in an April 23 hearing that she doesn’t think a homeless person riding the subway presents a danger to himself or others, even if he isn’t wearing a mask or practicing good hygiene during this pandemic. Her admission is a clear example of the politically correct claptrap being handed down by Banks, even when public health is at stake.
But Cuomo isn’t blameless, either, as the state eliminated 1,741 public psychiatric beds between 2010 and 2016. The toxic combination of Cuomo, de Blasio and Banks has left an army of mentally ill homeless individuals roaming our streets and subways, endangering themselves, MTA staff and our heroic essential workers.
It’s time to break this cycle of failure. Banks has proved that he isn’t fit to solve this problem. Mayor de Blasio would be wise to replace him with someone who won’t wait for a crisis to show leadership.
City Councilman Robert Holden represents District 30 in Queens.

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