NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The city’s growing homeless problem has some taking matters into their own hands.
On Monday, dozens of people took the fight to the front stoop of Commissioner of Homeless Services Steve Banks, demanding he and the mayor get serious about the issue, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.
Waving signs in Windsor Park, residents from around the five boroughs protested outside Banks’ home.
“Steve Banks is a failure. He’s a disgrace to the city of New York,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich said. “The administration has not been forthcoming, has not been transparent, honest and has refused to negotiate in good faith with communities where they want to open shelters.”
Ulrich said his district in Queens is one of many neighborhoods targeted by the Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, for new shelters.
“I’m not here to protest homeless people. I’m here to protest failed homeless policy, lack of affordable housing and bad leadership,” Ulrich said.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” plan, DHS aims to build 90 new shelters around the city.
“We have about three of them and they’re looking to put additional homeless shelters here,” said Egidio Sementilli of Pelham Bay.
“The history of Rockaway is to dump in Rockaway,” added 23rd Assembly District Leader Lew Simon.
“The size of Rockaway is about three and a half blocks wide and that is it and they’re putting a shelter right smack in the middle of it,” Rockaway Park resident Torey Schnupp said.
DHS said it notifies communities at least 30 days before a new shelter opens. Many residents said by then the deal is already done.
“We just found out about our shelter that’s supposed to be coming,” Schnupp said. “It’s about 150 feet from my house where this shelter is opening, so you can imagine that with two young children, especially daughters, I’m extra concerned.”
DHS Commissioner Banks never did come down from his brownstone tower Monday, but spokesperson Isaac McGinn said in response to the protest, “While the council member grandstands, we’re busy helping people get back on their feet. That’s what real leadership looks like, in case the council member missed it during his tantrum.”
And de Blasio spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg said, “Commissioner Banks does more for homeless New Yorkers in a day than Council Member Ulrich has done his entire career.”
“The mayor is running around the country running for president. Meanwhile, in his own backyard we have more than 60,000 men, women and children who are sleeping in our shelter system and the mayor’s response and his answer is just to build more shelters?” Ulrich said.
The protesters are expected to take it to City Hall next week.
“Demonizing homeless New Yorkers – 70 percent of whom are mothers and children – isn’t only cruel, it’s disgusting and counterproductive to ending the most urgent crisis facing New York City today,” said President and CEO of Win Christine Quinn in a statement.
“Creating shelters in the neighborhoods where kids come from ensures that we don’t force young children to travel an hour by bus each morning in order to get to school,” she said. “Politicians can either grandstand on the backs of our city’s neediest residents or they can do their jobs and help vulnerable families break the cycle of homelessness.”