Woes at Wards Island Homeless Shelters Overseen by Gov. Cuomo’s Sister

Last fall, a Cuomo administration agency signed off on a new shelter on Wards Island to be operated by HELP Social Services, part of a nonprofit founded decades ago by the governor and chaired by his sister, Maria Cuomo Cole.

The Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance had inspected the facility several times before and after it opened on three floors in a state psychiatric hospital. On Oct. 5, the agency certified that the site on the island between Manhattan and Queens was fit to provide safe lodging for single homeless men, records show.

Then cold weather arrived.

Inspections by the Coalition for the Homeless found interior temperatures in two dozen rooms on all three floors of the new shelter hit lows in the high 50s. Men slept with their jackets on. Extra blankets and space heaters arrived, but the chill remained. At one point, some men were moved into city-run shelters.

That wasn’t the only problem for HELP on Wards Island. An investigation by THE CITY discovered that as the state has approved an expansion of HELP’s homeless shelters in the city, multiple woes have plagued the nonprofit’s four Wards Island facilities.

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