NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio hurled a stunning attack at two of his predecessors Friday, claiming that the homeless crisis festered and ballooned in the city because mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani did not care about poor people.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, many have claimed the mayor was late to recognize the magnitude of the homeless problem. CBS2 in past months showed him pictures of, among other things, a homeless man who was seen bathing with soap in the fountain at Columbus Circle.
But this week alone, the mayor has announced three new initiatives – the latest on Friday. He also said the homeless crisis grew because past mayors who preceded him allowed it.
The mayor said Bloomberg and Giuliani have to accept part of the blame.
“This is really a scandal. If you think about it, how did this happen for decades – all of this? How was this tolerated? Why did the city tolerate this?” de Blasio said. “Everyone who’s been a part of city life, and everyone who’s been a part of government and public service – all of us have to bear responsibility not just for this year, but for decades before.”
The past two decades covers Giuliani and Bloomberg’s terms. Kramer asked de Blasio what his answer was to his rhetorical questions about why homelessness was tolerated.
“Look, I think for a long, long time in our society, the needs of poor people have been ignored,” the mayor said. “I think in the crass political world, these were people who, quote-unquote, didn’t vote, and therefore they didn’t matter to some people. I think that’s sick, but I think that’s real.”
De Blasio said he found parallels to the plight of homeless youth in the conditions at Rikers Island, public housing developments and the public schools, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
While he did not utter Michael Bloomberg’s name, de Blasio made it clear that homelessness grew under Bloomberg’s stewardship.
“If we had 37,000 people in shelter in the middle of 2011, and it grew to over 50,000 in two and a half years, where was the outrage?” de Blasio said.
De Blasio’s position on the homeless has evolved in the past five months, Kramer reported. When asked about the man bathing in the Columbus Circle fountain back in late July, de Blasio said, “We are going to enforce quality of life offenses,” and when Kramer persisted, he said, “Again, I’ve answered the question.”
On Friday, de Blasio said he is going to fix the homelessness problem.
“Bring the pain,” he said.
CBS2’s Kramer reached out to both Giuliani and Bloomberg for comment. A spokesman for Bloomberg said the former mayor was not going to respond, and aides to Giuliani did not return calls.
Sources pointed out, however, that the homeless count surged in 2011 after the state cut $100 million from a program to house the homeless. The source claimed no Democrat, including de Blasio, joined Bloomberg to fight the cuts.
Meanwhile Friday, de Blasio announced that his administration will add 300 more beds for homeless and runaway youth.
The 300 beds, which will be added over the next three years, will bring the total of beds available to homeless youth to 750, city officials said.
The city also plans to deploy more staff for service coordination with youths entering the Department of Homeless Services’ shelters.