He also pointed fingers at the state, as the governor continues to criticize the city.
The complaints have rolled in from average New Yorkers to elected officials like Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They believe the city is not doing enough to help the homeless, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
“I think there is as common perception out there that street homelessness has increased,” Councilman Stephen Levin said.
“I have to say I appreciated the element of your question that talked about perception,” Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said.
Banks is in charge of homeless services and defended its work during a virtual City Council budget hearing. It came at the same time Cuomo, along with the MTA, again, implored the city to beef up police and mental health services in the subways, saying it is not doing enough to help combat crime and homelessness, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.
“I’ve done more work with the homeless population than probably any elected official,” Cuomo said.
“I think there’s just a fundamental, you know, issue where the mayor is not necessarily in touch with our ridership,” Transit Authority Interim President Sarah Feinberg said.
But Banks testified criticism like that rings hollow, since over the years the state has drastically cut funding to the city’s efforts. He said the state contributes just 9% to the single-adult shelter program and nothing to street services.
“It’s pretty galling for the governor to get up there, or the MTA, and cast aspersions at how the city is addressing homelessness,” Levin said
“You’re absolutely right,” Banks responded.
“There’s so much public focus on the city should do more, that the state disinvestment is totally lost. We’re making up for them,” Banks said. “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.”
Banks also testified about the city’s homeless hotel program, which it significantly ramped up to keep shelter residents safe during the pandemic.
But many neighbors, especially in Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen, blame the hotels for a spike in crime and quality-of-life issues.
“The bottom line is we’re continuing to work with the health experts and follow the guidance,” Banks said.
Banks said there’s no short-term timeline for moving residents back to shelters.
A spokesman for Gov. Cuomo said his administration is leading the nation with what they call an unprecedented $20 billion homelessness and housing plan, among other initiatives.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman contributed to this report