City officials need to understand they do not have all the answers. Recently, Seth Diamond, commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, took on the Coalition for the Homeless for a report in which it recommended the city place the homeless in unused apartments.
At the moment, the emphasis is on placing the homeless in city shelters. In fact, 10 out of 18 of the city’s homeless shelters are in southeast Queens. This is problematic in a number of ways. The communities of southeast Queens do not want any more shelters. City Councilman Ruben Wills, who supports the coalition’s proposal, is writing legislation that would limit the number of shelters per community board.
The shelters may be the best solution for some homeless who are battling longterm problems that keep them from getting back into the mainstream. But the city is witnessing a growing number of new homeless families who lost their homes because of unemployment or mortgage scams. Diamond cannot think the shelters are the best places for them.
The coalition has suggested using unoccupied homes under the control of the Housing Authority and supporting this with federal funding. Diamond may be right. This may be unworkable, but at least it is an idea worth exploring. At the moment, it appears no one knows how much housing stock is available.
Diamond should think twice before he speaks again and should be open to meeting with people like the Homeless Coalition to see if there are not better ways than his agency to address the homeless problem.
The New Drug
The new drug being smuggled into Queens by gangsters is tobacco. Queens DA Richard Brown said he recently broke up a dozen illegal cigarette smuggling operations that cost New Yorkers at least a quarter of a million dollars in lost tax revenue.
Brown said the cigarette smuggling “cheat[s] the city and the state by fueling an underground economy.”
No one is surprised. As federal and state taxes drove the cost of a pack of cigarettes to levels no one thought possible 20 years ago, criminals saw a new opportunity unfold.
We applaud the aggressive stand Brown and local law enforcement are taking and wish them success.