You are reading

City Clears More Than 200 Homeless Encampments, Sparking Criticism From Some Queens Pols

An encampment in Brooklyn that was cleared by the city (NYC Mayor’s Office)

March 31, 2022 By Allie Griffin

The city cleared more than 200 homeless encampments across the five boroughs in the past two weeks, sparking criticism from some Queens officials and homeless advocates.

From March 18 through March 30, multi-agency teams removed 239 encampments throughout the city in an effort to connect people living on the street with social services and shelters, Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday.

Adams touted the program as a way to help the city’s homeless individuals living on the street while also cleaning public spaces, like areas underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“As the mayor of all New Yorkers, I am not going to abandon my neighbors to face suffering, freezing, violence, or death — especially when the city has the power to help,” he said. “Building trust takes time, but this is the right thing to do because there is no freedom or dignity in living in a cardboard box under an overpass.”

The mayor hopes to move people living in encampments to city shelters — including specialty shelters called “Safe Haven” sites that provide more services and often offer private rooms. However, according to a New York Times report, only five people from the 239 encampments have agreed to enter a shelter indicating most were likely to rebuild their makeshift camps.

Several elected officials, including four who represent parts of Queens, condemned the removal of the encampments.

Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, whose district includes Williamsburg and a section of Ridgewood, called on Adams to end the “sweeps of homeless encampments”. She was particularly disturbed when sanitation workers and the NYPD cleared a homeless camp underneath the BQE in Brooklyn earlier this week.

As the local reps, @LincolnRestler, @EmilyAssembly, @JuliaCarmel__ @NydiaVelazquez & I were disturbed by the violent displacement of homeless people from under the BQE as temps dropped below freezing,” she said in a joint statement with other lawmakers who represent the area under the BQE where the encampments were cleared. “Their possessions were thrown out but no housing solutions were provided.”

Adams has denied that the city has trashed the belongings of people living in the encampments but said Sanitation teams have tossed soiled items. He also said that cleanups of sites are announced with a written notice 24 hours in advance and staff from the Department of Social Services offer to connect encampment inhabitants with shelter and other housing services.

Gutiérrez said the sweeps cause more harm to vulnerable New Yorkers rather than supporting them.

“Performing sweeps of our communities and trashing our neighbors’ belongings does nothing to address the root causes of homelessness or provide real solutions – but it does cause trauma,” she said. “… we need emergency and permanent housing solutions now. Every New Yorker deserves safe, dignified housing.”

Similarly, Southeast Queens Council Member Nantasha Williams, Chair of the Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights, called the clearing of encampments a violent act that robs homeless people of the only safe space they have.

“Without a comprehensive city plan for providing safe, stable, and permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers, the Mayor’s directive is not offering a clear solution to homelessness, but is rather sweeping away the reality of the housing crisis in New York City,” Williams said in a joint statement with Brooklyn Council Member Sandy Nurse. “Clearing homeless people from public space for a short-lived cosmetic appeal is not addressing the root cause of homelessness.”

Meanwhile, State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Council Member Tiffany Cabán, both from Astoria, said Adams’ direction to clear the encampments was particularly problematic since he has proposed cutting homeless services in the city budget.

The preliminary budget cuts about $530 million from the Department of Homeless Services — from $2.58 billion in FY22 to $2.15 billion in FY23. Much of the cut is due to the loss of COVID-19 federal funding which supported services like free hotel stays for isolating people.

“So shortsighted to sweep up the unhoused like this while simultaneously cutting homeless services …,” Gianaris wrote on Twitter. “Where are they supposed to go and what services will be available when an already-inadequate support system is gutted further?”

Cabán signed a letter that was critical of Adams for clearing the encampments. The letter also included a request for greater city funding for housing.

“People can’t afford housing,” she tweeted alongside the letter. “If we kick them out of subways and tents, where are they supposed to go? City Hall says somewhere with ‘healthy living conditions and wrap-around services.’ But the mayor is defunding homeless services by $500M! Cruelty.”

On Tuesday, the mayor attended the opening of a safe haven shelter in the Bronx with 80 beds available to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.

Its opening was applauded by the Coalition for the Homeless, however, the group denounced the removal of encampments.

“We repeat that policing and sweeps are harmful, counterproductive strategies that can actually push unsheltered homeless people further away from services, and clearing encampments is in direct violation of CDC guidance,” said Jacquelyn Simone, Policy Director for the Coalition for the Homeless.

“Without offering homeless New Yorkers a better place to go, these are cruel public relations tactics that do not address the real problem, nor will they reduce unsheltered homelessness on our streets and subways.”

Council Members Williams and Nurse, however, said building more shelters will not end the homelessness problem.

“If we want to end homelessness in this city, we need to stop fooling ourselves that clearing encampments or expanding the shelter industry will cut it,” they said. “The only thing that solves homelessness is homes.”

email the author: [email protected]

One Comment

Click for Comments 
Javier

To all the complainers:
Understand this…….
MOST homeless people DO NOT want to be housed. They prefer tyo be on the streets. Many have openly said this. No one wants to see people having to live on the streets but we just can’t have them just plopping down and laying their flag wherever they want to, either. Is THIS the society that you want to pass along to your children? I mean, C’mon already. This is why Democrats are always talked bad about. You want to do good things, but have lousy ways of doing them. Its bad enough we have our streets littered with garbage on a daily basis, I don’t feel we need to see our streets littered with actual humans as well. Yes, homeless people need to be housed, but THEY have to WANT to also be housed, but they shouldn’t be left in the streets or sleeping in building bulkheads either if they don’t.

11
2
Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946 to 1950 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.