Today’s Listen: The City’s Homelessness Crisis and the Mayor’s Housing Plan

Despite the fact that homelessness continues to hover at record levels – with 63,000 New Yorkers, including 23,000 children, in shelters each night – Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York 2.0 plan sets aside a mere 5 percent of its 300,000 units for homeless New Yorkers. The Mayor has obstinately refused to commit to the House Our Future NY campaign’s reasonable request to increase the number of units set aside for homeless New Yorkers to 10 percent of his plan: 30,000 units, with 24,000 to be created through new construction.

This week, Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier spoke about the urgent need for the House Our Future NY campaign on the WBAI show “Max & Murphy.” The wide-ranging interview with Jarrett Murphy and Ben Max emphasized that housing-based solutions must be embraced on a scale to meet the need in order to actually reduce the number of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness. Giselle said:

“Throughout the Mayor’s tenure now, we have either reached new record levels of homelessness or hovered around record levels of homelessness the entire time, and we haven’t broken that trajectory. We haven’t been able to actually meaningfully reduce homelessness. At the same time, he has this very ambitious plan to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing. We don’t see the connection between his plan to address homelessness and the work that he’s doing on the housing plan, and that’s something that we’re really focused on currently.”


“The biggest piece that’s lacking is the production of affordable housing. In the Mayor’s ‘Turning the Tide’ plan, he focused on improving the shelter system, streamlining processes and bureaucracy, but made a very modest commitment to actually reduce the number of people who are currently homeless and living in the shelter system by only 2,500 people over five years. That’s not acceptable to us, and it shouldn’t be acceptable to any New Yorker really. So what we’re focusing on here is that the Mayor actually has, in another area of City Hall, a housing plan where he’s going to create or preserve 300,000 units of affordable housing. Right now, barely 5 percent of those units will be going to people who are currently homeless and have the greatest housing need, and double that number – 10 percent – are going to be subsidizing units that will have rents over $2,500 a month. We think that’s a huge mismatch and a huge missed opportunity to actually meaningfully reduce homelessness in New York City. So what we’ve been calling for – and we’ve been doing this in partnership with 60 other organizations and elected officials around the city – is calling for the Mayor to set aside 10 percent of his housing plan, so 30,000 units, specifically for homeless New Yorkers, but with most of those units created through new construction, so built from the ground up. We want 24,000 new construction units, and that’s important because there’s a distinction between new construction and preservation: Most of the preservation units are already occupied, and that’s great, we want to keep those affordable, but they don’t present an opportunity for someone to move out of homelessness and into a new unit. That’s why we’re focused on the new construction piece, and we think this is imminently feasible, and a really doable goal.”

“Right now, we’ve got the majority of City elected officials on board. We’ve got the Comptroller, the Public Advocate, four out of the five Borough Presidents, and the majority of City Council members signed on specifically to the House Our Future campaign. … It’s something that’s on people’s minds. People understand the issue and the need.”

“What we’re asking for here is not the entire housing plan. We’re asking for numbers that are commensurate with the need that we’re seeing, and the record homelessness that New York City has been facing now for many, many years. We’re merely asking for 10 percent of the plan, with the vast majority of those units being brand new construction. I don’t think that’s too much of an ask. Most homeless New Yorkers think that’s definitely not too much to ask. And I think most New Yorkers we’ve been talking to – as evidenced by the groups that have signed on, other Council Members and City elected officials that have also shown support – think this is eminently reasonable. So it doesn’t really make sense to me why [the Mayor is] stuck on this.”

Visit City Limits to listen to the full interview.

ARTWALK NY Honors Marina Adams, Stanley Whitney, and Suzanne Siano

On November 28, more than 750 friends and supporters of the Coalition for the Homeless filled Spring Studios in TriBeCa for the 24th annual ARTWALK NY charity auction and gala. The event raised roughly $850,000 to support the Coalition’s programs that help more than 3,500 homeless men, women, and children every day.

The event highlighted the achievements of this year’s Artist Honorees, Marina Adams and Stanley Whitney, as well as the tremendous support of our Philanthropic Honoree, Suzanne Siano. Special guest Debi Mazar spoke movingly about the insanity of having so much homelessness and hunger in a city as wealthy as New York and recounted her own experience of being evicted from her apartment in 1980. The event was presented by Italian fashion house Max Mara, who has been partnering with ARTWALK since 2016.

Marina Adams;Stanley Whitney

Artist Honorees Marina Adams and Stanley Whitney // Patrick McMullan/PMC


Philanthropic Honoree Suzanne Siano // Neil Rasmus/BFA


Max Mara’s Maria Giulia Maramotti with special guest Debi Mazar // Neil Rasmus/BFA

Guests bid on beautiful works by more than 100 artists including Keith Haring, Ai Weiwei, Mr. Brainwash, Bob Gruen, Jack Pierson and more. Returning DJs Elle Dee and Mia Moretti ensured our silent auction was anything but silent – filling Spring Studios with great music all night long! Throughout the evening guests enjoyed cocktails featuring Hendrick’s Gin, Qui Tequila, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, as well as a selection of RAMONA beverages and beer from Stella Artois all while sampling delicious food from some of New York’s hottest restaurants including Acme, Brodo, Claudette, Colonia Verde, Manhatta, Mimi, Noted Tribeca, The Odeon and Untitled at the Whitney.

At 8:00 p.m. guests poured into the live auction room while sipping on champagne in elegant, etched glass flutes courtesy of Perrier-Jouët. Coalition Board Chair Barry Berke kicked off the program by reminding the audience of the critical work of the Coalition for the Homeless, which relies on the generosity of donors to keep going. CFH Executive Director Dave Giffen then took the stage and told the story of Renata who, with the Coalition’s unyielding help and support and her personal determination, found her way off the streets and into a permanent home of her own. Art Advisory Board Chair (and 2016 Philanthropic Honoree) Mike De Paola presented the 2018 Philanthropic Honoree award to longtime Coalition and ARTWALK supporter Suzanne Siano, but first quizzed the audience on a few fun facts about Suzanne, pledging to donate $1,000 for every person who answered all five questions correctly and then bought a piece of art. Max Mara’s Maria Giulia Maramotti then gave a beautiful and heartfelt introduction to 2018 Artist Honorees Marina Adams and Stanley Whitney, who graciously accepted the award and spoke movingly about the importance of Coalition’s comprehensive direct services and groundbreaking advocacy.

CFH Executive Director Dave Giffen // Patrick McMullan/PMC


Marina Adams and Stanley Whitney accept the Artist Honoree award // Neil Rasmus/BFA

The live auction then kicked off with the signature energy and style of auctioneer Aileen Agopian, who opened the bidding for stunning works by Louise Fishman, Nir Hod, Jenny Holzer, Alex Katz, Glenn Ligon, Jon Pestoni, Ed Ruscha, Kenny Scharf, and of course Artist Honorees Marina Adams and Stanley Whitney.

ARTWALK NY auctioneer Aileen Agopian // Patrick McMullan/PMC

At the conclusion of the live program, guests were treated to sweet treats and a little jolt of caffeine courtesy of Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream, Counter Culture Coffee, and Everyman Espresso, as they made final bids on the 100 works in the silent auction. With the help of Paddle8 and Crozier Fine Arts, auction winners were able to leave the event with their beautiful new works that very night!

We really cannot begin to express our gratitude to everyone who helped make the 24th annual ARTWALK NY so successful. Of course, there is still so much more work to do. Tonight, 63,000 New Yorkers – including 23,000 kids – will sleep in New York City homeless shelters. Your support of ARTWALK helps the Coalition provide emergency food and clothing, eviction prevention, crisis services, job training and youth services to help our neighbors off the streets, out of shelters, and into permanent homes.

And of course thank you to all of the generous artists who contributed their breathtaking works, to our wonderful sponsors, and to our amazing sponsors, and to our Art Advisory Board and ARTWALK Benefit Committee for the tireless work to put on this wonderful event. Your compassion and dedication bring us one step closer to ending the terrible crisis of mass homelessness once and for all.

The City’s Homelessness Crisis and the Mayor’s Housing Plan

February will mark two years since Mayor de Blasio unveiled his “Turning the Tide” plan to address the homelessness crisis that had swelled during the first three years of his mayoralty. May will be the fifth anniversary of the mayor announcing his “Housing New York” plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of income-targeted housing. He raised the goal to 300,000 during his 2017 re-election campaign.

Each plan has had its own supporters and critics, its particular ups and downs. But the fact that they are separate plans is itself a major bone of contention between the mayor and some affordable housing advocates.

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