Today’s Read: de Blasio Rebuffs Question on Homelessness

The House Our Future NY campaign to urge Mayor de Blasio to set aside more affordable housing for homeless New Yorkers continues to gain momentum. Currently, a mere 5 percent of Mayor de Blasio’s 300,000-unit Housing New York 2.0 plan is set aside for homeless households. The 58 organizations that have endorsed the House Our Future NY campaign recognize that in order to combat record homelessness, the Mayor must dedicate at least 10 percent of his plan to homeless New Yorkers – 30,000 units, including 24,000 units to be created through new construction.

Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, who has been homeless for three years, approached Mayor de Blasio on Friday at his gym in Park Slope to ask why he has refused to consider this reasonable and important request. The Mayor quickly dismissed her and walked away, and a video of the encounter caught the attention of news outlets such as The New York Times, ABC News, New York Post, NY1, Patch, Pix11, NBC, Huffington Post, Bklyner, Fox News, Daily Beast, and Complex.

When later asked about the exchange on the NY1 show Inside City Hall, Mayor de Blasio mentioned that he does not agree with the House Our Future NY ask and has a “different strategy.” With more than 62,000 New Yorkers in shelters tonight, and thousands more on the streets, it’s clear that the Mayor’s strategy is not enough.

Jeffery C. Mays wrote about the campaign and the gym action for The New York Times:

The 35-second encounter was captured on video by another Vocal-NY activist and posted to YouTube, as first reported by Park Slope Patch. In the video, Ms. Adesegun, 72, a retired office manager, walks to where Mr. de Blasio is seated in a butterfly stretch and says hello. She shakes hands with the mayor and squats down before making her appeal.

“Out of 300,000 units in your affordable housing program, only 5 percent will go to the homeless: Can you look me in the eye and tell me why?” Ms. Adesegun asks as Mr. de Blasio tries to cut her off.

“I’m in the middle of doing my workout: Sorry, I can’t do this now,” Mr. de Blasio says. As a member of his security detail steps in, Mr. de Blasio gets up to leave. “I’m not doing this here,” the mayor says as he walks out with his phone in hand. “I’m in the middle of a workout.”

He then heads down a stairwell.

Ms. Adesegun said on Saturday that she believed the mayor cared more about his workout than listening to her.

Homelessness has been one of the most vexing issues facing Mr. de Blasio. The Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group, says New York is in the midst of the worst homeless crisis since the Great Depression. The city’s shelter system houses just under 61,000 people, including more than 22,000 children. In seeking to open 90 new homeless shelters, Mr. de Blasio has struggled to find locations and to overcome resistance from existing residents opposed to new shelters in their neighborhoods. [Mayor de Blasio’s Press Secretary Eric Phillips] says 16 shelters have been opened so far. The city also recently moved to consolidate its confusing system of rental subsidies.

Giselle Routhier, policy director of the coalition, said the group began calling for Mr. de Blasio to increase the number of units in his housing plan about a year ago.

“We still have near-record homelessness and it’s not going down as much as it should be at all,” Ms. Routhier said. “You can’t address record homeless without dedicating a meaningful portion of your housing plan to homelessness.”