By Bill Parry
A coalition of homeless advocates joined City Councilman Rafael Salamanca (D-South Bronx) on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to rally in support of his new legislation aimed at increasing the number of much-needed units for the near record homeless population in New York City.
Salamanca’s bill would require developers who receive city financial assistance for housing development projects to set aside no less than 15 percent of created or preserved dwelling units for homeless individuals and families, instead of the 5 percent that is currently required.
Joining them was activist Nathylin Flowers Adesegun, a resident of a Long Island City shelter for the past three years who generated headlines last month when she challenged Mayor Bill de Blasio on the issue as he worked out at his gym.
Adesegun, a community leader at VOCAL-NY, spoke of the incident after she joined hundreds that marched on Gracie Mansion last week to demand the de Blasio administration dedicate 30,000 units of his affordable housing plan for the homeless, including 24,000 units to be created through construction.
“I confronted Mayor de Blasio at the Park Slope YMCA to demand housing for homeless New Yorkers. He dismissed me that day. His office didn’t give us an answer when we met with them, so today I marched to Gracie Mansion because we will not stop fighting until we have homes,” Adesegun said.
“Mayor de Blasio’s plan for the homeless is clear: stay homeless for the rest of his term and let the next administration deal with the crisis,” she added. “If he really wanted to show that he cares about homeless New Yorkers, expanding the set-aside from 15,000 to 30,000 units is the very least he could do.”
The mayor defended his strategy last week at an unrelated press conference.
“I think the affordable housing plan works for the people of the city because it is for everyone,” he said. “It is meant to reach working-class people, middle-class people, low-income people.”
However, Giselle Routhier, the policy director at Coalition of the Homeless, called the housing plan wholly inadequate, saying it fails to meet the scale of the crisis.
“Of the 300,000 units of housing to be created or preserved by the plan, a mere 5 percent will be set aside for homeless households at a time when we are hitting new records almost nightly for the number of homeless single adults, while homelessness among families and children remain persistently and unacceptable high,” Routhier said.
“The depth of this crisis requires that the Mayor use all the tools he has available — including his affordable housing plan — to finally start reducing the number of our neighbors forced to shelters or the streets,” she added.
Several Queens elected officials spoke in support of the homeless advocates following the march on Gracie Mansion, including City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens).
“While addressing homelessness has been at the forefront of our city’s agenda, affordable, permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers must continue to be a major component of the city’s plan,” Grodenchik said. “The current system too often seems like a band-aid on a critical wound, so I stand with the coalition to say that at this time of crisis, building significantly more housing for homeless families is absolutely critical.”
City Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) cited the 22,000 children who are currently living in city shelters.
“One in 10 students last year were homeless. About one in three New Yorkers in city homeless shelters are children,” Moya said. “The most significant factor leading to homelessness in the city is a lack of affordable housing. As city officials, we all ought to address this housing emergency the urgency it demands.”
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) called the homeless and affordable housing crisis as the most important issues in the city.
“While I understand how difficult this challenge is, we must pull together to do the right thing for all New Yorkers struggling to find affordable permanent housing,” Richards said.
“It’s going to take an extreme effort to find a home for every homeless New Yorker, but with Public Advocate James, Comptroller Stringer, our Borough Presidents and the majority of the City Council aligned on this goal, we have the dedication and the will to get this done for people with the greatest need for housing,” he added. “We just need the Mayor to get on board and commit to 30,000 units dedicated to homeless New Yorkers.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr