MAYOR DUM BLASIO AND OTHER ELECTED OFFICIALS NEED TO START WALKING AROUND THE COMMUNITIES THEY SERVE INSTEAD OF LIVING IN A BUBBLE

From The Daily News:

EXCLUSIVE: Mayor de Blasio takes tour of filthy, needle-ridden Bronx drug den — vows to clean up homeless encampments

The encampment, pictured Tuesday night before de Blasio's visit, is located on a stretch of abandoned rail tracks underneath St. Ann’s Ave. in Mott Haven.

The encampment, pictured Tuesday night before de Blasio’s visit, is located on a stretch of abandoned rail tracks underneath St. Ann’s Ave. in Mott Haven.

With the city ramping up a five-borough crackdown on 80 homeless encampments, Mayor de Blasio traveled to the Bronx Wednesday to see the quality-of-life crisis firsthand — and was taken aback to find a deserted druggie lair.

De Blasio, his shirt sleeves rolled up and his face grim, grilled top city officials — including Sanitation Commissioner Katherine Garcia and Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor — about the city’s plans for the eyesore, a litter and needle-strewn stretch of abandoned rail tracks underneath St. Ann’s Ave. in Mott Haven.

“I don’t believe a homeless encampment is an acceptable reality in New York City in 2015,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Daily News.

The mayor said the visit was eye-opening. “There’s nothing like seeing the real thing and understanding the human consequences,” de Blasio said. Read the rest of the article at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/exclusive-mayor-de-blasio-tours-bronx-homeless-encampment-article-1.2346737NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

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And this is the problem with our elected officials from de Blasio down to the assembly members and community board leaders, they need to get off their fucking asses and out of their nice safe bubble and see and deal with what the rest of us New York folks deal with on a regular basis. Walk around your neighborhood streets and sidewalks, ride the subway system, talk to your constituents as opposed to ignoring our complaints with both myself and Jamaica community advocate Pamela Hazel can tell you all about. de Blasio, Queens Borough Melinda Katz, Senator Leroy Comrie and others live in a fucking safe bubble and have no idea what their communities look like, the poor quality of life most of us deal with, the nonsense we deal with and what we endure on a daily basis.

A couple of years ago, when Ruschell Boone of NY1 did her 4-part garbage series on Jamaica, then asshole Queens Borough President Helen Marshall along with Community Board District Manager Yvonne Reddick, walked around with Boone and Marshall was shocked of what she saw. NO FUCKING SHIT. That is what happens when leaders live in nice safe bubbles as opposed to REAL LIFE.

Your fucking job is to serve, SERVE, that is why you are called Public Servants, not real estate developers puppets, not lobbyist fuck buddies, but public servants to the PUBLIC. I wonder how many times Jamaica’s elected leaders even bother to walk around (and not counting lame ass street naming ceremony or digging up the ground with a shovel for some ass wipe photo op) but actually real life walking around your communities to see SHIT like this.Trucks 8.20.15 004Garbage & Major Mark Park 018

HELP ME, Call 311.

HELP ME, Call 311.

Garbage & Major Mark Park 01289th Ave Mess 011trucks7.25.15 003garbage7.21.15 019garbage7.21.15 021garbage7.21.15 003garbage6.7.15 019garbage6.7.15 006

 

 

OH OH, IS SENATOR JAMES SANDERS NEXT – TELLS STAFF TO CLEAN UP ANY ‘BABY-MAMA DRAMA” OR “WHITE POWDER ISSUES”

And more political soap drama from Southeast Queens. This one is a hoot! I mean I cannot even make up some of this shit.

Sanders stated that his house went into foreclosure as a result of predatory lending in 2011. And this guy is supposed to a “leader”.  I guess another case of “living beyond your means”.

Only in Southeast Queens would an elected official tell his staff to “cleanup your baby-mama drama”. So much for evolving as time goes on.

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From New York Post:

Queens lawmaker warns staff to clean up any ‘baby-mama drama’

Spooked by federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s crackdown on Albany, a Queens lawmaker warned his staffers to keep their noses clean in case any investigator tried to turn them against him.

State Sen. James Sanders told employees late last year that the feds were investigating him and that anyone with “baby-mama drama” or a “white powder issue” should resolve it immediately, said a source close to Sanders.

“He said, ‘The Department of Justice has launched an investigation, and they will turn over every rock to try to get to me,’ ” the source recalled.

“And he told the staff, ‘Anyone in here who has baby-mama drama, who has a little white-powder issue, and I’m telling you to clean up your acts, because they are coming, and they are coming strong, and they will come after y’all to get to me.’ ”

The Democrat allegedly said the inquiry concerned his campaign activities and spanned his time in the City Council but revealed little else at a staff briefing after a forum at the Omega Psi Phi Day Care Center in South Ozone Park.

He assured staff, “You’re not going to find anything on me,” the source said.

“He would say all the time, ‘I’m a chess player. I’m very strategic. I’m an analytical thinker.’ ”

Asked about the claims, Sanders said, “The story is too silly to comment on.”

A spokesman for Bharara, the US attorney, also declined to comment.

Sanders served in the City Council from 2002 to 2012 and has been a state senator since January 2013.

He doled out nearly $3 million in council slush funds to Queens groups between 2008 and 2013, city records show. But he has had funding troubles.

He raised only $293,962 — and spent $324,941 — in his council run, city campaign-finance records say. In his Senate bids, he collected $221,020 and spent $324,941, state records say.

Sanders said he earned $75,000 to $100,000 in 2013 but owed $30,000 to the city Campaign Finance Board, state records show.

He acknowledged his house went into foreclosure as a result of predatory lending in 2011.

“His finance are a shamble. He has no assets; he hasn’t raised money. It’s frustrating,” said a former aide who declined to be identified.

Feds contacted two Sanders aides — Mike Duvalle and Tajuana Hamm — after the lawmaker told staff about the probe, one Sanders source said.

Investigators opened the inquiry into Sanders about two years ago, an FBI agent told another source.

29TH DISTRICT CANDIDATE FORUM SEPTEMBER 1ST – SCHERIE MURRY VS ALICIA HYNDMAN – POSTPONED TILL OCTOBER 13TH

cleanupjamaicaqueens:

The debate between the Democratic and Republican candidates in the special election in the 29th state Assembly District originally scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 1, has been postponed, according to a statement issued by the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP, one of the sponsors of the event.

The email from NAACP Chapter President Leroy Gadsden said only that the debate between Democrat Alicia Hyndman and Republican Scherie Murray has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13, at Majority Baptist Church in St. Albans.

Originally posted on cleanup jamaica queens now :

Like it would have hurt the Queens Chronicle to post the address of where this candidate forum is being held on this Tuesday, September 1st.

Why is it when it comes to one of this country’s most important rights, VOTING, they always give as little information as possibl. Little information as far as dates, locations, candidates, etc. It is like they do not want you to know.

Majority Baptist Church * 11521 Farmers Blvd. * St. Albans, NY  11412

Should be an interesting debate, especially since Murray is the first Republican in 30 years to be nominated in Southeast Queens 29th Assembly District. And we all know what a bang up job the Democrats have had in the area for decades.

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From Queens Chronicle:

Candidate forum in 29th AD

Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2015 10:30 am

Candidates in November’s special election in the 29th Assembly District will meet…

View original 166 more words

STOP WITH FALSE PRAISING OF CORRUPT POLITICIANS, EVEN WHEN THEY DROP DEAD – CASE IN POINT FORMER COUNCILMEMBER AL STABILE

Way too many elected officials who are useless and corrupt (which includes the majority) get praise when they are living and even more when they drop dead. But just because one drops dead, that person does not get a pass and then is praised upon.

Former Ozone Park Councilman Al Stabile was just as crooked and corrupt as any Southeast Queens politician and now that the heavy weight (literally) dropped dead, folks are praising him. Sorry, you do not get a free pass when you die.

He was accused in 2001 (but somehow not convicted) of swiping funds from the Little League team that he name was attached to (http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2001/24/20010614-archive514.html). He also overpaid three political events with campaign money to the tune of $14,000 (http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/pol-debts-don-add-article-1.902350).

Yeah, we all know the “innocent until proven guilty”, but you know what, in the political world, just the fact that your name is brought up in this shit, says a WHOLE LOT. Elected officials who are on the straight and narrow path, never have shit brought up about them.

So Stabile may have dropped dead, but he does not get a free pass on what a wonderful elected official he was because of it. Your dead, but you still were crooked as they come.

Maybe in your district there is a public toilet that can bear your name.

WHAT too soon…………………………….NEVER.

Just wait till some of Jamaica’s finest bite the bullet.

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From Queens Chronicle:

Former Councilman Al Stabile dies at 68

 

 Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2015 4:22 pm | Updated: 12:34 pm, Mon Aug 31, 2015.

Former South Queens Councilman Alfonso Stabile died on Saturday morning of natural causes, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said. He was 68.

“Al Stabile was a passionate and dedicated public servant who always put the community first. I grew up watching and admiring his career in politics,” Ulrich said. “Al was a great councilman as well as a loyal and loving friend. Our city is a better place today because of him.”

Stabile, a Republican, served as the city representative for the 32nd Council district, the same seat Ulrich holds today, from 1994 to 2001. He was born in East New York, but his family later moved to Ozone Park, according to a cached page from his 2001 Queens borough president campaign website. He is an alumnus of John Adams High School.

His wake will be held at James Romanelli Funeral Home, located at 133-18 Cross Bay Blvd. in Ozone Park, on Tuesday and Wednesday from 3 to 9 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, located at 101-41 91st St. in Ozone Park, on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

Affectionately known as “Big Al,” Stabile entered won his seat in November 1993 when he defeated 24-year incumbent City Councilman Walter Ward. He advocated for the repair of parks, schools and roadways in his district and was instrumental in getting then-Pope John Paul II to say Mass at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park in 1995, his website states.

During his second term, he opposed the toll on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and fought to improve conditions at the Rockaway Boardwalk.

In 2001, he ran on the Republican ticket for Queens borough president but was defeated by Democrat Helen Marshall.

Outside of politics, Stabile made a name for himself in the community.

In 1967, he enlisted in the US Army and served during the Vietnam War as a sergeant in the 6th Infantry Division.

After returning to civilian life, he worked for a short time as a Sanitation driver and married Sara Jane Friia in 1969. The couple had two children, Frank and Connie. He then started a realty business, and in 1979 became involved in the Ozone-Howard Little League.

For many years after that, he served his community through philanthropy, helping to raise money for several nonprofits, becoming a member of Community Board 10 and cofounding Angels on the Bay, a nonprofit that seeks to help chronically ill and disabled children, and more.

However, controversy marred his image toward the end of his political tenure.

During his 2001 borough president run, he was investigated by the Queens district attorney for allegedly mishandling Ozone-Howard Little League funds, as well as allegedly trying to trade public land leased to the organization to a company he was indebted to. He was never formally charged with either.

All over the borough, fond memories of Stabile were shared by those who knew and worked with him.

“Prior to running for the City Council, he made a commitment to help build our present firehouse. Thank you for all the years of support. Rest In Peace my friend,” the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department said on Facebook.

“Al was a tremendous help to this agency as well as the other volunteer ambulance and fire departments in his district,” the Lindenwood Volunteer Ambulance Corps said. “The Officers and Members of Lindenwood VAC extends is deepest condolences to the Stabile family on their loss. Rest in Peace.”

“Al was a great friend to the Volunteer Fire Depts and Ambulance Corps in his district and fun guy to be around. May he Rest in Peace,” the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department and Ambulance Corps said on its Facebook page.

“Not only was Mr. Stabile a vital member of the South Queens Community, but [he] proudly served his country in Vietnam,” the Queens County Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said in social media post.

 

RESIDENTS CONTINUE CLEAN-UP OF ABANDONED PARK/PLAYGROUND IGNORED BY OWNER & ELECTED OFFICIALS

And so the cleanup and takeover by residents continue. WHY WHY WHY does it have to come to this while over-paid knucklehead useless, corrupt & empty elected officials do as little as possible.

But will this area continue to be a dumping ground for garbage on the outside by the other residents, the bottom of the barrel folks who love to live in their own shit and filth.

And you will not hear one elected official give praise to these folks at all, not that these folks want it, they just want responsible leadership and enforcement of laws.

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From Pamela Hazel, Social Media Journalist for Justice & Community Advocate:

The cool breeze was the right temperature around 9:30 a.m. This past Saturday Aug. 29th., residents and auxiliary members of the 103rd. precinct tackled the park.

We rolled-out a green canvas material, and affixed it around the newly painted fence; that surrounds the park. This area at 109th. avenue and Merrick Boulevard is jumping for joy.

This is after 25 years of abandonment by its owner and neglected by politicians. Our so-called local leaders invented every conceivable excuse under the sun and they remain bystanders.

However, as the time ticked away we put a stop to the 25-year old plague. Some of us stayed outside the park; others had to venture inside. We had to pull, twist and stretch the material to get a good grip on it. Auxiliary members took turns in demonstrating their skills and leadership. They worked diligently and without hesitation.

Folks, we are just a few yards from completion. Very soon the whole 25 year old eyesore will no longer be visible.

Thanks to Detective Lowe for assisting in the total operation. Also thanks to Captain Ruiz who sent out his auxiliary team; too many names to mention. They made possible what appeared impossible for our local leaders.

The borough president, Melinda Katz and her gang are still trying to reach the ” the appropriate agencies,” DON’T BOTHER. We will NOT WAIT for another 25 years. That’s the year 2035.Parkcleanup2Parkcleanup1Parkcleanup3Parkcleanup4Parkcleanup5Parkcleanup6

MIGHT WANT TO BE CAREFUL WHICH ATM MACHINES YOU USE

From Queens Courier:

Four ATM skimming devices found in past two weeks in 109th Precinct

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the NYPD

Photos courtesy of the NYPD
An ATM skimming device found in a gas pump on Francis Lewis Boulevard.

Police are cautioning the public to be mindful of erroneous charges on their accounts after four ATM skimming devices were found in the past two weeks in the 109th Precinct.

Two of the devices were discovered in automated teller machines located inside a Flushing Duane Reade store at 136-02 Roosevelt Ave., according to a statement released over social media by Deputy Inspector Thomas J. Conforti. Two additional devices were found affixed to gas pumps at the gas stations located in Whitestone at 17-55 Francis Lewis Blvd. and on the Bayside border at 29-16 Francis Lewis Blvd.

Police said that the devices were respectively discovered by workers at Duane Reade and gas station owners, who then immediately called NYPD to investigate.

Deputy Inspector Conforti said police do not know how long the devices were in place.

The Inspector further stated that it is usually a couple of months after finding the device that victims may begin to notice suspicious charges on their bank accounts.

The NYPD is advising consumers who may have used charge cards on these ATM machines or gas pumps since Aug. 1, 2015, to call credit card or bank companies and inform them of cards which may have been compromised.

The case is being investigated by the Financial Crimes Task Force. Any suspicious activity or crime should be immediately reported to the 109th Precinct.

GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO FIX A PROBLEM THEY HELPED CREATE: HOMELESSNESS

First off, it is a MYTH that anyone can be homeless, NOT TRUE at all. If that was the case, the number of homeless would be HUGE. Also one does not become homeless over night, there is a long lag time for many before they become homeless.

As I see statistics, some homeless are making minimum wage while having young kids (Like Kewanee Colbert in the article below, who has three young children) . FIRST off, if you are making minimum wage, having children SHOULD NOT be on your agenda. Children are expensive and one should have a good paying job before having one kid (let alone three or more), otherwise your children can follow in that same cycle. Also if your skills are limited and you know that you will not be making a decent salary, one should not come to NYC (or leave it) or any other expensive city (San Francisco, Boston) to many cities and places across the country that are much cheaper to live, even on minimum wage. The other issue,  many people live way beyond their means (in fact most should live at least 10% below their means). The reason, many lost their homes. Yeah, you can blame the banks for their practices, but the bottom line, you signed on the dotted line, knowing damn well, that you could not afford that four bedroom house at your salary.

I have heard this ridiculous statement that homeless shelters bring jobs to the community. WHAT. A shelter certainly does not bring jobs to a community. First off, a shelter does not create that many jobs and certainly not well paying jobs. Second, many of those with jobs in shelters do not even live in that community at all.

Let’s get to the crux of the issue. Much homelessness has been caused by corporations (who have outsourced many decent paying jobs to other countries) and government. When people blame China for taking our jobs, that is NOT right. USA corporations gave China our jobs (as well as other countries) at the expense of it’s own people. Government waste so much money when it comes to homelessness with band-aid solutions that do very little good, drain tax payer’s money and do not serve the homeless well. JOBS (and good paying jobs) are the answer to the majority of homelessness. Minimum wage MUST be lifted to a LIVING WAGE, period. It costs way more to have the minimum wage low than it does to raise it to a high level. More tax payers money get spent on taking care of people living at poverty or below the poverty line, plus the fact the toll that communities pay for those same people.

The real estate developers/lobbyist (especially in NYC and who work hand in hand with our politicians) create these false HIGH market rates which make it nearly impossible for middle class people, let alone lower economic people to maintain a dwelling without spending a huge part of their paycheck.

Homelessness is now BIG BUSINESS, just like WAR, PRISONS and the biggest drain, the useless WAR ON DRUGS.

Yet government will tell us, that this is “all our problem” and we all have to chip in. NO, it is your problem that you helped to create, are not addressing properly and coming up with good permanent solutions. Shelters should have only been a short temporary stop to permanent housing, but it seems to a permanent way of living.

So stop passing the buck and having certainly communities bare the brunt of having homeless shelters (and poorly run ones at that) that already have issues that are not being addressed. You (government) created this isssue, YOU FIX IT.

Hell, government cannot fix the damn gun problem in this country, I do not see much movement in this problem either. But hey, “we are all in this together”, except for the politicians, the corporations and the mega rich.

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From Salon:

“Conditions were ‘bluntly Dickensian’”: The disgrace of New York’s homeless shelters

New York has its highest homeless rate since the Great Depression — Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo need to do more

 

"Conditions were 'bluntly Dickensian'": The disgrace of New York's homeless shelters (Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet
Kewanee Colbert has a full-time job prepping food for one of those fancy gourmet meal delivery services that are booming in New York and other cities. Still, he lives in a Bronx shelter for homeless families with his fiancée and three kids, ages 2, 4, and 7. While he’s grateful that his family has a roof over their heads, he sums up the experience as, “It gets to you.”

 The family is not allowed to have any visitors; not even the kids’ grandmother, he says. The adults have a 9 p.m. curfew. They have to sign in and out whenever they leave the shelter, and must log in at least once a day, or they get kicked out and have to apply all over again. They’re not allowed to leave town without a very good reason — a funeral, say — and they need a special pass for that. An incomplete inventory of items banned from their unit: air-conditioner, microwave, cable TV, a large TV or more than one TV (if the family is in possession of an inappropriate size or number of TVs they have to put them in storage). In fact, most shelters only allow two pieces of luggage each. There are weekly inspections of their room, including the contents of their mini-fridge.

Still, it’s much better than the Staten Island shelter they stayed in before that. “It kind of looked like a storage room,” he says. One room for all five of them, including his four-year-old daughter, who is autistic and cried through the night, keeping the other kids up. No space for his son to do his homework. No running water in their room, no kitchen. A shared bathroom with the others at the facility. When the family stayed there, his daughter went through autistic regression. “She can’t tell us when she has to go to the restroom,” he says. “She would hold it for a long time and she just started going on herself.”

But even that was better than applying at PATH, the city’s homeless families intake center, where adults with kids go to be placed in shelter. “It was really a horrific experience,” he says. The family was denied placement when they applied last winter, so they were bussed back at 5 a.m. each day with their kids and all of their belongings from wherever they were temporarily being put up (the city must place people somewhere for the night when the temperature is below freezing).

Endlessly waiting in a government building packed with exhausted, stressed-out children is just as fun as it sounds: there’s no place for the kids to play, and everyone sits on hard plastic chairs, he says. They’re patted down and go through metal detectors “like a jail.” There’s no outside food allowed, and applicants are forced to throw their own food away. His fiancée, driven half-crazy from dragging three kids out of bed at four in the morning to trudge through the snow to sit in PATH all day, almost gave up, even though it was the middle of a brutal New York winter.

“And they keep telling you, ‘You’re not eligible, you’re not eligible, there’s nothing you can do,” he says. “I have a disabled child, how are you gonna deny shelter?

“It kind of breaks you down … because it’s like they want to break you down so you give up and not push to be housed if you’re homeless, even though you have no choice but to push.”

***

New York City is legally required to provide shelter to all homeless people, thanks to a series of court decrees that have withstood the dogged efforts of many a Republican Mayor and Governor to overturn them. But a large number of families who seek shelter are turned away anyway. During the tail end of the Bloomberg administration more than 60 percent of families who applied were found ineligible, according to an Independent Budget Office analysis. To gain eligibility, families have to convince PATH that they have zero other options.

“You have to prove every place you and every member of your family slept in for the past two years. It’s so they know every address they can investigate,” says Kathryn Kliff, a staff attorney at Legal Aid Society in the Bronx. “Even if you’re street homeless, you have to get documentation.” Kliff counsels clients to get creative, like asking a bodega guy on the corner or “the guy that slept next to them” for official proof that they were, in fact, sleeping on the street.

Even if a person you’ve formally lived with gives PATH a statement that you can’t stay with them, that’s not enough. “PATH always thinks that your close relatives will take you back,” Kiff says, “and a lot of times they will, but a lot of times they won’t, if there’s some pretty bad family history of trauma or domestic violence, or lease restrictions.”

Vondell James, a petite, pretty 35-year-old, was outside of PATH with her toddler on a warm Saturday in June, having just reapplied for shelter after getting denied the first time around.

She had been staying with family while she was pregnant with her daughter. But an “altercation” with a male relative — an altercation that she says left her with a black eye, chipped tooth, and an overnight stay in the ER, when she was seven months pregnant — meant that was not longer a viable option.

She got the news that she and her toddler were ineligible for shelter the day before her first Mother’s Day.

“I sat there and I cried and cried and cried,” she recounts. “I’m like, where am I supposed to go with my 10-month-old?”  (James contested her decision and ended up getting placed.)

That it’s no easy (or cheap) feat to accommodate people who need shelter is not surprising, given the massive rates of homelessness in the city. Almost 60,000 people are crowded into the city’s shelters, including 25,000 children. Close to 80,000 kids enrolled in NYC’s schools during the 2012-2013 school year experienced homelessness that year, according to the Institute for Children and Poverty. As the Huffington Post noted, that’s a 63 percent rise in 5 years; Queens actually saw an unbelievable 90 percent jump in student homelessness.

“Many people don’t realize that there’s a large population of kids and families in shelter. They’re almost invisible,” says Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless.  “You see them, and you don’t know. The invisible, hidden homeless population of working moms struggling to get by, kids coming from shelters to public schools, their classmates don’t know.”

A breakdown by race paints an even grimmer picture. One in 7 poor African-Americans (incomes below the federal poverty line) spent time in the shelter system last year, according to Coalition for the Homeless. Twenty-two percent of poor blacks kids in the city have spent time in shelter; that’s 8 percent of all African-American children under 5 in the city, according to Child Welfare Watch. 

On average it costs the city $3,000 a month to house a family, so it’s hardly surprising that PATH is not overly enthusiastic about putting families into the system.

***

Homeless advocates largely agree that the city’s astronomical rates of homelessness, which are higher than at any time since the Great Depression, can be traced to two trends with deeply unfortunate consequences for the city’s poor: insanely high New York rents and the three-term tenure of billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

After promising to cut homelessness by two-thirds in 5 years, the Mayor embarked on a homelessness action plan so counterintuitive that it might as well have been designed to make more people homeless. A recap: in 2005, the Bloomberg administration chopped homeless families’ priority access to Section 8 vouchers and federal housing administered by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), out of concern that devious poor people were pretending to be homeless and going through the shelter system in order to grab up housing aid. To replace it, he introduced a temporary rental subsidy called Homeless Stability Plus, then dropped it. He began another temporary rental subsidy called Advantage, but dropped that program when New York state pulled its part of the funding (surprise spoiler: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not a hero in this story either). Saddled with high rents they couldn’t pay, many families lost their previously subsidized apartments.

“Once vouchers ran out, [homelessness] began backing up real fast,” says Ralph da Costa Nunez, President of the Institute For Children, Poverty & Homelessness, in explaining today’s crisis numbers.

As homelessness rates ticked towards 50,000 sheltered homeless people towards the end of his time in office, Mayor Bloomberg seemed to lose interest in the problem, outside of making the occasional tone-deaf remark that New York’s homeless families didn’t have it that bad. “It is a much more pleasurable experience,” the Mayor opined to explain why so many families stayed in shelter so long. Needless to say, most shelters were not the pleasure palaces the Mayor envisioned. Bloomberg had also expanded the number of so-called “cluster-site” shelters. These are low-income apartment buildings where landlords are paid by the city to take in homeless families. Where traditional non-profit shelters are supposed to provide supportive services, these landlord-operated shelters offer amenities like rats, roaches, and obstructed exits, as a Department of Investigation report released in March found.

Meanwhile, New York City rents skyrocketed. While in many parts of the country poorly paid service jobs disqualify poor people from the elusive American Dream of living in a home, in New York City the gap between income and rent hits especially egregious levels.

Kewanee Colbert, for example, makes $11 an hour at his food delivery service job. That hourly wage does not make his family the most attractive tenants. He says the places he called told him they’re looking for people making $50,000 a year.

“The shelter’s not the best living situation. So you want to get out of there soon, but if you don’t make enough money it’s kind of hard,” he says. “It’s almost impossible.”

At least he makes that much and works full-time. New York’s minimum wage is $8.75, and many low-wage workers do not get 40 solid hours of work per week. Thirty-seven percent of New York workers make less that $15 an hour, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, a non-profit research and policy center.

Meanwhile, rents have jumped by 32 percent citywide since 2002 (adjusted for inflation), according to an analysis of census data by the Community Service Society. In central Harlem, rent has risen by 90 percent since the early 2000s. Over 30 percent of New Yorkers sink more than half of their income into rent, according to analysis by the Coalition for the Homeless. For those who ambitiously aspire to a life of “a bare-bones family budget in New York City,” the Fiscal Policy Institute notes that two adults must be working full-time at $15 an hour at a minimum. The number of affordable apartments for families living below the poverty line fell by 13.3 percent just between 2011 and 2014. That helps explain why one-third of homeless families have jobs — just not ones that pay enough for them to afford to live somewhere, notes the Coalition report. 

As rents have risen, so have rates of eviction, and so have rates of evicted families with no choice but shelter. The Coalition report notes that between 2002 and 2010 the number of homeless families entering shelter after being evicted has quadrupled.

“Truth be told, shelters are the surrogate for low-income housing,” says Ralph da Costa Nunez of Institute for Children and Poverty. “If you’re really poor in America in the twenty-first century, at some point, you’re probably going to need the shelter system.”

***

When Vondell James and her 10-month-old daughter stayed in a shelter during her 10-day investigation, she says she made “best friends” with a bottle of bleach and set about scrubbing the place. “It was dirty. But hey, nothing some Clorox couldn’t get into!” she says brightly.

But she discovered that the magic of Clorox had its limits.

“You know those rats in the train [station]?” she says, hugging her daughter to her chest. “They have those loooong tails. They’re big and they’re nasty. Yeah, that’s what I saw in that apartment.” With almost impressive tenacity, the rats stuck it out even in the absence of the things that usually interest rats. “If you don’t have any garbage in the house and you still see rats running back and forth — and it’s the big ones — that’s disgusting,” she says.

Inspectors from the Department of Investigation (DOI) were similarly dismayed after surveying 25 cluster site and city shelters last year. Conditions were “bluntly Dickensian,” declared DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters when the report came out in March. They found infestations of rats, mice and roaches. Among other delights investigators observed, “a dead rat in a cluster apartment where four children lived, the decaying smell of which permeated the hallways.”

In addition to varied species of vermin, investigators discovered locked exits and blocked passageways that could obstruct escape in emergencies. In one city-run shelter, a rusted-out staircase was unusable, giving 140 residents only one way out of the building; when DOI called on the FDNY to inspect the site, they deemed the situation so dangerous they wanted to evacuate the building. Instead they made do with posting fire guards to regulate traffic in case of a fire.

They also found exposed electrical wiring and nonworking fire alarms, water damage and mold. One woman told investigators her electricity was often shut off for days at a time.

Although infractions were also found in non-profit shelters, the worst offenders were cluster site shelters (though city run shelters also had dangerous and unsanitary conditions). For the public service of taking in homeless families with vermin-infested apartments, the city paid landlords an average of $2,451 per month, according to the report (some are paid over $3,000). The market rate for regular apartments in these neighborhoods range from $528 to $1,200 a month.

Even under much better circumstances — regular access to electricity, fewer rats — homelessness has myriad negative effects on children, even if they’re living doubled up in someone else’s apartment or in a shelter. For decades, social researchers and psychologists have documented a depressing array of symptoms linked to homelessness in early life: from higher rates of illness  to learning difficulties to mental health disorders. Homeless kids are four times as likely to have asthma, six times more likely to stammer or have other speech problems, and go hungry twice as often as housed kids, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness. Even when compared to housed children who are poor, the stress of unstable housing leads to more severe health problems.

19,000 kids who spent time in shelter in the past fiscal year are younger than 5, according to a report by Child Welfare Watch at the New School. 

“For babies and toddlers, whose brains are developing at an especially rapid clip, a family’s exposure to the kind of chronic tension and trauma common to shelter-living can be particularly debilitating,” notes Kendra Hurley in a report for Child Welfare Watch. “It can prevent infant-parent bonding, wreak havoc on how children’s bodies respond to stress, and ultimately derail their development.” In 2014, families spent 427 days in shelter, she notes. “For a baby, 427 days is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for intense learning. It’s long enough to go from being a newborn with a floppy neck to learning to smile, sit up, feed oneself, walk, fall and say ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy.’ It’s also long enough to intuit whether the world is a generally benign, benevolent place, or one fraught with danger.”

The report points out that, while older kids might fare better, they face their own unique problems. A stressful housing situation is not conducive to academic achievement. “Some of the biggest impact is on education,” says Ralph de Costa Nunez. “Where are you going to study? Being doubled up is almost as bad as a shelter, since at some point you know you’re not going to be doubled up anymore.”

According to the National Center for Family Homelessness, nationwide, fewer than a quarter of homeless high schoolers graduate. Homeless kids get worse grades and they’re more likely to be held back. 

Costa Nunez notes getting held back or dropping out of school is hardly helpful in breaking the cycle of homelessness.

“We’re bringing up our third generation of future homeless parents,” he darkly observes.

***

Since taking office (with Dasani, a homeless girl made famous in a New York Times series,  a featured guest at the inauguration), Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken a number of steps largely lauded by advocates for the homeless. He devoted a percentage of NYCHA houses to families coming out of shelter, introduced a rental subsidy program called Living in Communities (LINC) and has committed $100 million to fighting homelessness in his annual budget.

But the Mayor’s progress has been slowed by conflict with the Governor’s office. The launch of LINC was delayed after Gov. Cuomo threw various obstacles in the program’s path. As Jared Murphy has reported in City Limits, the Governor initially tried to keep the program out of the 2014-15 budget cycle, and then pushed for such low rent levels that landlords didn’t want to participate. The state is also diminishing funding for NY/NY, a city/state agreement inaugurated during the administrations of Governor Mario Cuomo and Mayor David Dinkins. The jointly funded program provides supportive housing to New Yorkers struggling with mental illness. As the Gotham Gazette notes,” … though it has proven to be singularly successful, housing 80 percent of its participants for life, the future of the program grows increasingly uncertain as state funding fades.” Although the Mayor has asked for 12,000 units of housing, the Governor’s budget allows for 3,900 (advocates have pushed for 30,000, according to the New York Times).

The Mayor and Governors’ offices have also quarreled over funding to improve the city’s dilapidated shelters, with the Governor threatening to yank funding until they were fixed up, and administration officials countering that depriving public services of funds does not usually improve them (the Governor’s office reversed their position after public outcry).

Many homeless advocates also say that the de Blasio administration could stand to do more given the historic crisis at hand. Sheltered families increased by 14 percent during de Blasio’s first year in office. Although there were small declines in sheltered families during the first two months of this year, it’s not clear if they’re the result of the subsidy or a quirk. In a March report the Independent Budget Office noted that the city’s forecast that they’ll move 6,551 households into permanent housing this year might be too rosy, since “funding for additional placements in future years is uncertain, and therefore the long-term impact of these programs on the city’s homeless shelter population—and shelter costs—may be less than anticipated.”

“I think people are surprised that Mayor de Blasio could do a hell of a lot more,” Jennifer Flynn, executive director of VOCAL-NY, says.

The Mayor’s office has also been widely criticized for apportioning only 750 NYCHA units to homeless families (fewer than Mayor Rudy Giuliani). “We feel that the number should be at least 2,500,” Patrick Markee says. There are also concerns that the Mayor’s affordable housing plan is targeted at upper and middle-income families rather than low-income New Yorkers.

“Homes for Every New Yorker,” a coalition comprised of organizations like Legal Aid Society, Coalition for the Homeless and Vocal-NY, has laid out a plan that they say would eliminate the city’s mass homelessness crisis within five years. They back big picture reforms like increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and work with building developers who use union labor. They call on de Blasio to allocate 10 percent of new affordable housing units to homeless families and individuals. They point out that previous administrations have helped move thousands of families out of shelter by setting them up with federal public housing apartments (NYCHA) and section 8 vouchers. They’re also calling on de Blasio to set aside 2,500 public housing unit a year. They also demand stronger protections against eviction, and the conversion of cluster site shelters to regular apartments.

For now, the families stuck in the shelter system are making do and hoping for a way out.  “It really sucks, but I’m doing it for my child,” Vondell James says. “She’s young, she’s not going to remember this and I swear I will never return. The conditions … It’s horrible.”