De Blasio talks about homelessness at Corona town hall

Mayor Bill de Blasio responds to a question while Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland sits behind him at Wednesday’s town hall.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Patrick Donachie

During a town hall last week at IS 61 in Corona, Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged that the city was working to stop housing homeless individuals in two hotels in the area.

The town hall, which was moderated March 31 by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-Corona), touched on a wide variety of topics and challenges, including school segregation, domestic violence protection, and consistent anxieties about President Donald Trump’s potential impact on Queens’ immigrant populations.

De Blasio said he had been buoyed by the events in Washington that unfolded during the past week, when Republicans in Congress, along with Trump, failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“I’m very happy to say we got a better answer than we expected,” de Blasio said, noting that two million New Yorkers had been insured under the ACA. “The world is a better world than a week ago, because there was a full-court press to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and they couldn’t get the votes.”

A series of attendees asked a variety of questions regarding the Trump administration’s approach to undocumented immigrants, with the mayor stressing strongly that city schools and the NYPD would not inquire about a person’s immigration status. After one questioner said people were scared to come to the town hall because of their status, de Blasio decried the atmosphere of fear.

“If you create an atmosphere, people will not participate. People will not come forward if they are witness to a crime,” the mayor said. “Everything that has to do with the city of New York has to do with respect for people regardless of documentation.”

Another individual also questioned de Blasio about whether private companies who have undocumented workers on their payrolls would still qualify to bid on public projects. De Blasio said any attempt by the Trump administration to target all undocumented immigrants in the country would be an economic calamity.

“It’s very cynical of them to arrest a few people and make an example. They’re not, in my opinion, stupid enough to try to arrest everyone because the backlash would be unsupportable and the economic impact would be unsupportable,” he said. “We’re going to do what we see fit and we’re going to keep working with your business.”

De Blasio also detailed his long-term plans regarding city homelessness, stressing a desire to ensure that homeless individuals were not placed far from the original residencies or communities.

“While anyone is homeless, we want to make sure they’re supported in their own borough and as close to their own community as possible,” he said.

However, he said that there was more capacity than necessary in the community district the town hall was held in, which would help the city transfer the homeless individuals living in the hotels into other spaces.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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