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Bill de Blasio points to redundancies in executive order on homeless

A homeless man sits on Sixth Avenue and

A homeless man sits on Sixth Avenue and West 41st Street in Manhattan on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order mandating that homeless New Yorkers be kept off the streets when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday morning that he supports the objective of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s edict to move homeless individuals out of freezing cold temperatures — using police and force, if necessary — but pointed to redundancies between the executive order and practices already in place in New York City.

“We appreciate the intent of the executive order, but what we believe is, right now, we have the tools to get people off the street who are in danger,” he said at an unrelated Brooklyn news conference.

De Blasio cited HomeStat, his homeless outreach program; Code Blue, granting shelter to anyone during cold and heat emergencies; and NYCSafe, an initiative to provide mental health services; as among the resources the city has to confront the crisis.

Cuomo, whose aides have blasted his fellow Democrat de Blasio as unable to manage the city’s increasingly visible homeless population, signed an order Sunday declaring people must be moved off the streets when temperatures fall below 32 degrees, or the freezing point.

His order, which goes into effect early Tuesday, also calls on shelters to expand their hours.

The National Weather Service warned that the wind chill late Monday into the overnight is expected to be near zero.

The governor said the order exemplifies compassion and humanity.

Long Island government and police officials are meeting Monday to discuss how Cuomo’s edict will be implemented.

Nassau and Suffolk counties have more than 3,800 homeless individuals in shelters and on the streets, according to a January 2015 count by the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless. New York City has more than 63,000 people in shelters and on the streets, according to the city Coalition for the Homeless and the city Department of Homeless Services.

Cuomo’s executive order says the state will provide resources to whoever needs them to carry out the mandate.

The mayor said the state Mental Hygiene Law already calls for authorities to move people off the streets to homeless shelters or to medical centers for psychological evaluation under certain conditions.

Cuomo’s chief counsel Alphonso David said Sunday that the state law authorizes local officials to engage with individuals, but the governor’s order will mandate such interactions with at-risk New Yorkers.

The NYPD already approaches and assesses the homeless, de Blasio said. “If someone’s in danger, we will bring them in. Period,” he said.

The mayor admitted that city shelter conditions must be cleaner and safer, acknowledging that many homeless people are reluctant to seek refuge in them.

He renewed a call to Albany to restore funding to the state budget for city homeless services and to provide funding for supportive housing, or units with on-site substance abuse and mental health treatments and other programs.

With David M. Schwartz and Nicole Fuller


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