Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and several of her City Council colleagues demanded on Thursday that the mayor increase funding for housing and the homeless as part of his first budget proposal — a plan which is still in the process of being finalized.
Speaker Adams and the Council want Mayor Eric Adams to increase spending funding for housing and homelessness by more than $300 million annually—and to pump up the city’s capital funding allocation by a whopping $4 billion.
During a rally Thursday on the steps of City Hall, the Council Speaker described housing as the top concern among New Yorkers and sought to tie the issue to public safety, the top priority of the mayor during his first months in office.
“If we want to advance public safety, we need to invest in expanding the solutions that provide truly affordable housing, as well as the programs and services that we know work,” she said. “These effective and thoughtful policies and solutions are right in front of us. We just have to implement them.”
The policies the Council is seeking to pay for through its funding demands include increased cash to pay for rental vouchers, a property tax rebate for struggling homeowners and an expansion of safe haven and stabilization shelters—which are preferred by many homeless people over traditional, dorm -style shelters.
“We know that many people who are unhoused on the streets reject congregate shelters as a safe pathway into permanent housing,” said Councilwoman Diana Ayala (D-Manhattan/Bronx), who heads the Council’s General Welfare and experienced being homeless in her youth and as an adult. “So we need to expand our investments in alternative solutions — much greater than the administration has currently budgeted.”
Ayala noted that the Council is also seeking a $49 million investment to convert hotels that were used as homeless shelters into affordable housing and wants the administration to remedy bureaucratic roadblocks that people encounter when attempting to use city housing vouchers.
“Too few New Yorkers are eligible for accessing the vouchers, and those who do are facing serious income-based discrimination,” Ayala said. “This can’t continue.”
Ayala and Speaker Adams were joined by several other Council members and advocates for the homeless to signal that the Adams administration’s spending plan doesn’t do enough for the homeless, who the mayor has targeted through sweeping away homeless encampments and having the NYPD roust sleeping subway passengers.
The Council Speaker and her colleagues have criticized Hizzoner for those policies, calling the crackdown on encampments “cruel” earlier this month.
But Mayor Adams has countered that his policies are coming from a place of compassion, arguing that he refuses to stand idly by and allow people to live on the street in filthy conditions.
Eric Senzon, the director of Housing Works, rejected the policy Thursday, but said he is “disappointed, but not surprised” that Mayor Adams, a former NYPD captain, is using cops to drive homeless people from the subway system.
“Many street homeless experience serious mental illness and mental health problems for which the shelters often give little, if any, support,” he noted. “We know that sweeps do nothing but shuffle people around, while taking away their dignity and destroying their personal property.”
On Thursday, when asked about the Council’s budget demands regarding housing and homelessness, Mayor Adams pointed out that his spending plan still hasn’t been finalized, suggesting that there is still plenty of room for more negotiation.
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“We’re still in the budget season. We’re still in conversations,” he said. “We have been having deep discussions with the City Council leadership. As I stated, the Speaker and I, we say Adams & Adams law firm. We believe we are partners here.”