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NYPD chief Bill Bratton criticizes City Hall's response to homeless 'epidemic'

A homeless man panhandles along Eighth Avenue in

A homeless man panhandles along Eighth Avenue in Manhattan on May 18, 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

In an apparent criticism of City Hall's handling of the city's homeless problem, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Thursday the mayor's administration took too long to admit how bad the "epidemic" had become.

"I think the mistake that the administration made early on was not to go validate what you all were seeing," Bratton said, speaking at a Manhattan Institute forum on quality of life issues. "The problem is increasing."

A New York Times/Siena College poll released Tuesday found 62% of city residents disapprove of Mayor Bill de Blasio's handling of the homelessness crisis.

On Wednesday, de Blasio announced in Times Square an about $2.6 billion initiative to create supportive housing with on-site social services.

"We have been fighting the homelessness crisis on every front," de Blasio said on Wednesday.

Bratton, however, said certain court decisions allowing people to be on the streets and mental health issues have made it more difficult for officers to tackle the issue. And the issue, he said, is not unique to New York.

"I'm as frustrated as you are. I have a neighborhood that has a significant homeless problem," Bratton said, referring to his own Upper East Side neighborhood. "I experience it every day as you do and I'm frustrated with it, but we are working on it.

"And it's not for lack of commitment and it's not for lack of resources. We are a resource-rich city at this moment, thank God," he added. "But it is going to take time to deal within the laws we have to work with and the extent to which the problem has exploded."

Phil Walzak, an adviser to the mayor who also attended the Manhattan Institute forum, said de Blasio takes quality of life issues very seriously. The administration, he said, is focused on helping homeless people find "permanent pathways out of homelessness," which includes de Blasio's push for more affordable housing options.

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