GOP mayoral candidate blasts de Blasio on homelessness
by Benjamin Fang
Sep 26, 2017 | 1635 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis visited Elmhurst last Wednesday to criticize Mayor Bill de Blasio on his policies on homelessness.

Standing in front of the Pan American Hotel, the site of a controversial homeless shelter opposed by many community residents, Malliotakis said the homeless crisis has exacerbated in the last four years.

She pointed to the growing costs to house the homeless and slammed de Blasio for his plan to build 90 new shelters in the next five years.

“This administration is going about the problem the wrong way,” she said. “Queens has been particularly battered by Mayor de Blasio.”

Malliotakis, an assemblywoman from Staten Island, said the city is spending $500,000 a night housing the homeless in hotels, and roughly $55,000 a year per family. At the Pan American Hotel, the city still has six years remaining on its nine-year contract that totals $92 million, according to the assemblywoman.

The mayoral hopeful and residents also criticized the poor conditions within the shelter, which notably lack kitchens, even though it’s required by law. Phil Wong, president of Elmhurst United said Comptroller Scott Stringer extended the contract despite the inaction by Samaritan Village, the shelter’s nonprofit provider.

“This is an illegal shelter,” Wong said. “Scott Stringer registered an illegal contract.”

Malliotakis said a quarter of city shelters operate without a permit, and others lack important amenities like sprinklers or outdoor space.

“The living conditions here are unacceptable,” she said.

On her campaign website, Malliotakis lays out a 15-point plan to tackle homelessness by increasing affordable housing and addressing underlying issues. Her proposals include freeing up space in public housing, creating an at-risk rent subsidy, starting a domestic abuse relocation program, establishing pop-up walk-in intake centers and implementing performance evaluations for nonprofits.

Rather than building new shelters, Malliotakis said she would take the money the mayor has allocated to build more affordable and supportive housing. The assemblywoman said she would work with private entities, nonprofits and churches to help maintain the properties and defray the costs of upkeep.

“It’s much more sound policy and a wiser use of taxpayer money,” Malliotakis said. “It makes a lot more sense to try to get some permanent housing for individuals as opposed to doing what the mayor’s planning to do with 90 shelters.”

When asked about the timeline for that to happen, Malliotakis said transitioning the homeless currently living in hotels, which she estimates at 7,800 people, could take a “five to 10-year period.”

That’s similar to de Blasio’s timeline, but the difference is that she would transition them into permanent housing rather than another shelter.

Later that day, de Blasio responded to Malliotakis’s criticisms at an unrelated event by speaking about his own plan. He touted his administration’s success in helping 64,000 people move out of shelters and into affordable housing in four years.

“We’ve had a major emphasis on stopping people from becoming homeless to begin with, with rental subsidies and with the anti-eviction legal services,” he said. “We think a proactive approach to keeping people from ever ending up in shelters is the number one thing that matters.”

However, the mayor said he’s not satisfied with the outcome so far, and acknowledged a “tough battle” ahead.

“I have to keep doing better,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it.”

He said he would disagree with any plan that gets out of hotels and cluster units without creating more shelter capacity.

“You’re going to end up with a lot more people on the street and no one wants that,” de Blasio said.

As the general election campaign continues, Malliotakis finds herself with a steep climb to make up ground. A recent Marist poll put de Blasio at 47 points ahead of his Republican rival. The assemblywoman said her own internal polling put the race a lot closer.

“The only poll that matters is on Election Day,” Malliotakis said.

De Blasio played down the importance of one individual poll, and said he’s “confident in everything we’re seeing.”

“I feel very good about the primary result and the support I’ve received from my fellow Democrats,” he said. “I feel good about what our campaign is doing and saying.”
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