Watch CBS News

De Blasio Concedes He Has Done A Poor Job 'Explaining' Homelessness Crisis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said his "greatest failure" was doing a poor job explaining the homelessness problem to New Yorkers, and making them understand he is addressing it.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Mayor de Blasio did not want to take any questions Friday about the homelessness problem in New York City.

But earlier in the day, he was asked on the WOR Radio morning progra what his greatest failure was – and said it did have to do with his response to the homeless problem.

"I didn't get ahead of this to explain to people the problem and the measures we're taking, and bluntly, we're going to have to do a lot more," de Blasio said.

But on Thursday, police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the mayor did not recognize the problem soon enough.

"I think a mistake that the administration made early on was not validating what we all were seeing -- the problem was increasing," Bratton said Thursday during a quality-of-life panel discussion at the Manhattan Institute.

The city is addressing the problem, but the commissioner said there are new obstacles.

"The frustration I have as police commissioner this time that I did not have in '90 in the subway system, and then in '94 as police commissioner, is the rules of the game have changed and changed dramatically," Bratton said.

He noted there are court decisions that significantly limit the ability of police officers to address the issues.

"There are constant court initiatives to protect the rights of the homeless to be on the streets that we have to go with the law," Bratton said. "For example in the City of New York, if somebody wants to sit on a box on a city street with a sign begging, constitutionally protected, also protected by New York laws that say that is freedom of speech."

Bratton said an old law that would have called that blocking free foot passage was overturned.

Meanwhile, some homeless advocates said de Blasio needs to do more than explain the problem better. They said it is a matter of doing something about it.

On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $2.6 billion program to deal with the city's growing homeless problem. It aims to create 15,000 new housing units for the homeless over the next 15 years, and offer social services such as mental and physical health care, and substance abuse programs.

But George McDonald of the Doe Fund questioned de Blasio's focus on permanent housing, saying it will not address the problem now.

"What the mayor should have done, the solution was to have transitional housing," McDonald said. "But they have this endless focus on building permanent housing that's going to be available many years from now, when the problem is on our streets today."

In some areas, like the Garment District, signs have been going up asking the public not to give to the homeless after a similar comment was made by Bratton last week.

New Yorkers have expressed disappointment in the mayor's efforts to curb what they see as a burgeoning homeless problem. A New York Times/Siena College poll released this week found that 62 percent disapprove of how de Blasio is handling the homeless, while 29 percent approve.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.