The blame for a growing, more violent homeless population on city streets rests squarely with current City Hall policies, officials with the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations said.
“There’s been an increasing tolerance for the homeless on city streets, sidewalks and subway stations during this administration,” said Mitchell Moss, professor of urban policy at NYU and a former campaign advisor to Michael Bloomberg.
“The police are disempowered to remove the homeless — and New York has become less aggressive on quality-of-life issues. You used to be penalized for urinating on the street!”
Edward Skyler, once an aide to Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for operations, said, “As this awful crime shows, letting people live on the street is dangerous and inhumane and we shouldn’t allow people to do it.”
Skyler, now the head of global public affairs at Citi, stressed that police must be a part of the homeless solution.
“While the causes could be economic or mental health issues, you can’t address street homelessness purely from a social services standpoint. The police have to be part of the solution. … It crosses into public safety and public health,” he said.
“No one wants to ask police officers to be social workers, but there are points when they are the only ones equipped to handle situations,” he said.
One law enforcement official said Mayor Bill de Blasio lost his stomach for vigorous “broken-windows” policing after Eric Garner’s death during the first year of his administration. Garner died after being taken down by cops — while telling them he couldn’t breathe — for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island.
“After the video of [Garner’s death] was viewed on social media a million times — cops were told to back off. [De Blasio] didn’t want any confrontation, and the police were told not to enforce quality of life crimes — so these crimes are ignored and have multiplied.
“There is a direct correlation to this and the large amounts of mentally ill on our streets.”
Former Mayor Giuliani has slammed de Blasio for allowing homelessness to rise to record levels over the past few years.
“Homelessness was gone, and homelessness should be gone,” Giuliani said during a Fox interview in April. “There’s a way to look at homelessness that these liberals just don’t get.
“When I see a city with homeless people, I see a city with a mayor who doesn’t give a damn about people, because if you give a damn about people, you don’t let them lay on the street.
“I had a rule that streets were not for living,” added Giuliani, who ordered cops to tell vagrants they couldn’t sleep on the street and direct them to homeless shelters.
Said Skyler, “Ignoring it isn’t going to make it better. I am not sure what it’s going to take for people to recognize this has to be addressed.”