By Matthew Taub
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
Prominent members of the City Council are urging Mayor de Blasio to find more space for the homeless within the New York City Housing Authority.
Appearing on the steps of City Hall yesterday, Council Member Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) detailed the contents of a letter written to the mayor’s office requesting that the number of public housing apartments allocated to homeless families be increased to at least 2,500 units each year. In addition to Levin, the letter was signed by Council Members Ritchie Torres, Corey Johnson, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, Ydanis Rodriguez, Vanessa Gibson, Annabel Palma, Costa Constantinides, Daniel Dromm, Donovan Richards, Antonio Reynoso, Laurie Cumbo, Carlos Menchaca, Brad Lander, Inez Barron and Jumaane D. Williams.
“The seriousness of the homelessness crisis needs to be matched with a serious commitment to providing housing for vulnerable families,” said Council Member Levin.
The letter comes after NYCHA proposed an allocation of only 750 public housing apartments each year to homeless families. This is far less than the City allocated under previous mayors, and despite the fact that the number of homeless families and children is far higher now than under previous administrations. Close to 53,000 New Yorkers are in the shelter system, including 23,000 children, numbers that are up for previous years.
“The City can and should do more to leverage its expansive stock of public housing as a long-term solution to homelessness,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Committee on Public Housing. “Expanding the homeless priority for vacant NYCHA apartments will better ensure that our most vulnerable families have access to the safety and stability of a decent home.”
Advocates for the homeless joined Council Members in calling for action to address the homelessness crisis in New York City.
“New York City needs a response to the homelessness crisis that is big enough to match the unprecedented scale of the problem,” said Mary Brosnahan, President & CEO, Coalition for the Homeless. “Mayors Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani all successfully used NYCHA public housing apartments to move tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers out of shelters and into permanently affordable homes. Without making full use of this critical and cost-effective resource, it is hard to see how New York City can reduce the tragic and unacceptable number of families sleeping in our shelters every night.”
“In the first term of the Bloomberg administration, NYCHA allocated thousands of federal subsidies to homeless families, so we know NYCHA can do it,” said Judith Goldiner, Attorney in Charge, Law Reform Unit, The Legal Aid Society. “Currently, NYCHA allocates 2500 apartments a year for households who are working but who have no demonstrated need for housing, arguably the least needy families on NYCHA’s wait list. We urge NYCHA to immediately eliminate the “working preference” and allocate 2500 apartments a year for homeless families thereby ensuring that New Yorkers most vulnerable residents have access to stable, affordable housing.”