Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order Sunday mandating that homeless New Yorkers be kept off the streets when temperatures drop below 32 degrees, the freezing point.
The edict goes into effect Tuesday as colder weather sets in this week.
“We don’t let our brothers and sisters in this state stay on the street, even if they’re down on their luck, under freezing temperatures,” the Democratic governor said in a WCBS 880 radio interview Sunday. “And we’re going to bring them into shelters that are safe, clean and decent.”
The executive order requires authorities across the state, including police in New York City, to move the homeless by force if necessary when conditions are too cold.
“It’s spotty at best,” Cuomo said of current protocol, “so this is a blanket, uniform statewide rule.”
He emphasized his action is a mandate to officials: “You must.” Before, he said, “They all could. This is: you must.”
Cuomo, whose aides have criticized his rival Mayor Bill de Blasio over New York City’s handling of its homelessness crisis, said the order is not specifically aimed at de Blasio. He said the city “was talked to” about the order before his announcement.
De Blasio’s spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the governor’s announcement.
Nearly 60,000 people are in New York City homeless shelters, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless’s 2015 count, which provides a snapshot of the homeless populations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, found 3,860 individuals in shelters and unsheltered.
Cuomo acknowledged that he may face legal challenges over the constitutionality of forcing people from the streets. He said he was taking responsibility for the law.
“A local police commissioner can just say, ‘Go sue Governor Cuomo, he made us do it,’ ” Cuomo said. “And if I get sued for keeping people safe and getting people in from the cold because they were endangering themselves, then so be it.”
The governor said in a separate NY1 interview Sunday that it is the state’s New Year’s resolution to help the homeless.
“Our state, which has a beautiful tradition of social progress and community, should not leave anyone outside in freezing temperatures,” Cuomo told NY1. “That’s called basic humanity.”