Republican mayoral hopeful Nicole Malliotakis took aim at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s response to the city’s homeless crisis on Wednesday, calling the use of hotels to house the homeless “a textbook example of government dysfunction.”
Malliotakis, a state assemblywoman from Staten Island, laid out her criticism of the mayor’s homeless reduction plan, and outlined some of her proposals at a news conference outside the Pan Am Hotel on Queens Boulevard, which has since been converted into a 216-room family homeless shelter.
In July, the city signed a $66 million six-year contract with the shelter’s operators, the nonprofit Samaritan Village, to continue housing families at the former hotel. Malliotakis, joined by community activists who have long opposed the hotel’s conversion into a shelter, argued that the taxpayer dollars would be better spent on more long-term solutions such as shoring up the city’s affordable housing stock.
“Let’s get permanent housing for these individuals, not homeless shelters,” Malliotakis said, surrounded by more than a dozen activists with the group Elmhurst United.
The city spends up to $550,000 a night housing homeless residents in hotels, according to city data. Earlier this year de Blasio announced a plan to build 90 new homeless shelters to address the city’s record high homeless population of some 60,000 people. The mayor’s plan looks to cut the city’s homeless population by 2,500 people over the next five years, and aims by 2023 to end the city’s use of hotels to house homeless residents.
At an unrelated news conference in Brooklyn, when asked about Malliotakis’ remarks de Blasio said “if you get out of hotels . . . and you don’t have an alternative, you’re going to end up with a lot more people on the street.”
Malliotakis’ news conference came a day after a Marist poll found de Blasio with a 47-point polling edge. The poll found 65 percent of likely voters chose de Blasio, compared with 18 percent who sided with Malliotakis, and 8 percent who chose independent Bo Dietl. Two percent said they would vote for another candidate.