Don’t go to his home, go to my home instead.
That was the advice Mayor Bill de Blasio gave on Friday to those protesting the proposed homeless shelter at a Maspeth hotel who picketed outside the Brooklyn home of Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks last week.
In an interview with QNS, Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA), said his group and the Maspeth Middle Village Task Force (which organized the protest) wants to take up de Blasio on his challenge and is planning protests at both City Hall and Gracie Mansion. The group is working with others across the city opposed to the city’s ongoing shelter practices.
He also defended the protest outside Banks’ home, noting that it was a “very successful” demonstration that raised public awareness over the Maspeth proposal.
“If he’s going to bring these homeless shelters and affect our homes, we’re going to bring it to him,” Holden said. “All’s fair in love and war, as they say.”
In an interview with WNYC-AM radio on Friday afternoon, de Blasio charged that the protest, which drew three busloads of people from Maspeth opposed to the planned shelter at the Holiday Inn Express on 55th Road, was designed to intimidate Banks and the rest of the city from doing its job.
“We’re not going to be intimidated by protests,” the mayor said, adding that “it’s not right” for demonstrations to take place outside the homes of public servants. He instead suggested the protesters come at him directly.
“If you have a problem, come to my home. Come to Gracie Mansion, you can protest all you want,” de Blasio added. “Come to City Hall, but leave alone decent public servants who are just trying to give people a place to live.”
When news broke Thursday afternoon that the protest was scheduled, a spokesperson for de Blasio implied that the demonstration was an effort to intimidate a public official.
“Intimidation and threats are not how we resolve problems in New York City,” Aja Worthy Davis said. “The city will continue to engage with community members regarding this proposal, but New York City will not stand for the harassment of a government official and his family at their home.”
The statements sparked an incredulous reaction from Holden. He pointed out that de Blasio had been involved in similar protests against city agencies before becoming mayor.
“Since when are peaceful protests equivalent to ‘intimidation and threats’?” Holden asked. “The First Amendment guarantees the right of public assembly. As I recall, it was Mayor de Blasio who made sure he got arrested protesting the closure of Long Island College Hospital (in Brooklyn) while chanting, ‘No hospital, no peace.'” De Blasio was the city’s public advocate at the time of that particular protest.
The anger at de Blasio isn’t limited to protesters. On Friday, state Senator Joseph Addabbo called upon the mayor to directly address inquiries he made regarding details about the Maspeth shelter proposal which have, to date, been unanswered. Addabbo indicated that the lack of details regarding the plan led to numerous rumors being circulated about its use, “causing the real status of the plan to remain unknown by those it would affect the most.”
“I truly believe that by improving the cooperative effort with elected officials and community residents, we can better address and serve the needs of those desperately seeking shelter,” Addabbo wrote in a letter to Mayor de Blasio. He requested a response to his correspondence by no later than Sept. 21.
In the meantime, the task force is planning to march this weekend outside the Long Island home of Harshad S. Patel, who owns the Holiday Inn Express. The Maspeth Middle Village Task Force argues that, because of past attempts to bribe a public official, Patel should be disqualified from doing business with the city.
“We are protesting at Patel’s house in Floral Park next,” said Tony Nunziato, chair of the Maspeth Middle Village Task Force and Republican candidate for the 30th Assembly District seat. “If the players here won’t come and talk to us, we’ll show up on their doorsteps.”
Earlier this month, Patel announced that he was withdrawing his support of the plan, but the city indicated negotiations for the shelter were ongoing.