[Hpn] New York, NY - Inner Circle of Bloomberg Aides Put Homeless Shelter in
Old Jail - The New York Times - August 14, 2002
Wed, 14 Aug 2002 18:50:40 -0500
Inner Circle of Bloomberg Aides Put Homeless Shelter in Old Jail
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER - The New York Times - August 14, 2002
The Bloomberg administration, which frequently makes high-profile
decisions among a few key aides, used a similar strategy when
deciding to place homeless families in a former jail, people
involved in the discussions said yesterday.
The administration has been under tremendous pressure to deal
with the flow of hundreds of homeless families into the Emergency
Assistance Unit in the Bronx, where many have been sleeping on
the floor in recent months.
Allowing the homeless to sleep in the emergency assistance office
violates a court order, and the commissioner for homeless services,
Linda I. Gibbs, was facing a contempt order for permitting it.
Last week, the court told the city to come up with a plan to get
families out of the unit at night, in consultation with the
plaintiff seeking the contempt order and the special master
assigned to the case.
But lawyers for the Bloomberg administration would not tell
either the special master, Barbara Cutler, or the plaintiff's
lawyer, Steven Banks, specific details as to where the city might
provide temporary housing for homeless children and their
families, Ms. Cutler and Mr. Banks said.
Ms. Cutler said that the city's corporation counsel informed her
on Friday that the city had found a building to possibly move the
families into, but would not identify it.
On Sunday, when Ms. Cutler and the judge on the case, Helen E.
Freedman, of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, were on vacation,
Mr. Bloomberg toured the Emergency Assistance Unit and the jail
with Ms. Gibbs, and agreed to a plan to let families stay in the
Bronx jail overnight.
Officials in the Bloomberg administration said that only a select
few people, even in government, were aware of the decision
before it was announced.
"The administration had a motive to give the families a place to
sleep but the solution they found is not the answer," said Ms.
Cutler, back at her vacation spot in Maine after leaving briefly
to visit the former jail.
"Now there is more discussion between the parties, and I am
hopeful that we will be able to come to a collective decision and
explore other alternatives, which I wish had been done in advance
James Anderson, a spokesman for Ms. Gibbs, said yesterday: "Every
plan that we've put forward has included only those strategies
and facilities that we believed were viable at the time the plan
was submitted. It would be inappropriate to put forward anything
He added: "This has characterized our entire approach to this
crisis this summer.
Submit a plan. Keep looking for more ways to assist families.
Update plan. Continue looking for more ways to help families.
This is the way you need to respond to a crisis situation."
The idea of placing families in a former jail was considered
briefly by the Giuliani administration, but rejected out of
concerns for children, said former city officials.
Ms. Gibbs said this week that the city chose Sunday to open the
shelter because, "it was a time that worked on everybody's
schedule. We had been looking for the past week for a number of
options by talking to various city agencies, and the Department
of Corrections told us they had this available. They were
tremendously supportive and cooperative."
City officials have chafed under the court-ordered special master,
preferring to come up with their own solutions to the vexing problem
of homelessness, which has become more complicated in recent
months with a rise in homeless families seeking emergency shelter.
More than 8,400 families are now in the city's shelter system, and
the number of families applying for shelter rose by 25 percent in the
year ended June 30 over the previous year.
Mr. Banks said that he and other advocates for the homeless
suggested in May, when the number of homeless families in
shelters began to swell, other options, like cleaning up 300
apartments and shelter units that had been taken off the city's
roster because they needed repair — a plan the administration is
now pursuing. There is also the option of sending homeless
families to hotels and other temporary apartments, a costly
During the Giuliani administration, officials sometimes resorted
to using places like drug-treatment centers for emergency
overnight housing for families.
Another option that the city could consider, advocates for the
homeless and some former officials said, is reopening other entry
offices in Lower Manhattan and in Queens that were closed in
1993, although it is not clear that doing so would alleviate the
bottlenecking that causes people to end up on the floor at night.
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