By Mark Hallum
New York City may not be dead, but it’s mired in a “whole constellation” of bad news that has made Governor Andrew Cuomo as frustrated as any native New Yorker might be these days.
During a Tuesday press conference in Manhattan, the governor took aim at a whole host of issues in the five boroughs — from the resurgence of COVID-19 in a few clusters across the city, to reports of lagging sanitation services, to increases in crime, to homelessness during the pandemic.
And, naturally, Cuomo griped about the state of affairs at City Hall — specifically focusing on an apparent reluctance in leadership when it comes to police reform that he ordered back in June.
“Long-term recovery is going to be a different issue, but we need to stabilize the city now and there’s a lot of anxiety now. It’s crime, homelessness, the economy, cleanliness, picking up garbage. When you put all those things together it’s frightening people, I can tell you that. I want them to know we are addressing it,” Cuomo said. “If we can reopen a school, we can reopen a [homeless] shelter. The police have to do their job and they have to arrest people who deserve to be arrested.… So I think we have to attack the whole constellation because there’s a negative synergy.”
Cuomo again warned that the city would not get funding from the state if they do not submit a plan for police reform by April, as per an executive order issued following unrest after the death of George Floyd.
Turning to trash, Cuomo took aim at the city’s Sanitation Department about the reported rise in waste across the city. THE CITY reported on Sept. 27 that complaints about missed trash pickups have increased.
“I’m getting a lot of complaints in New York City about the cleanliness of the city, about garbage piling up. That adds to schools, crime, economy and now garbage piling up, literally, people saying its an odiferous environment,” Cuomo said. “I don’t know what’s going on in New York City. If they can’t do it, I have offered to send in the National Guard to pick up the garbage. The state can bring in trucks, personnel and clean up the city. I think that would be important, this is a public health pandemic.”
Homelessness encampments under scaffolding and other setups across the city was a topic Cuomo encourage the city to address through reopening shelters. The city has moved many of the residents in congregate shelters to hotels where men and women can isolate and maintain their own healthy environment.
Cuomo’s comments regarding reopening homeless shelters comes as the city undergoes friction from residents of the Lucerne Hotel in the Upper West Side being relocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio after complaints from people in the area of declining quality of life.
“Homeless people should be offered safe shelters with services. Many of the cities and the states closed their shelters during COVID. It’s time to reopen those shelters,” Cuomo said. “You have to open it with precautions, but open the shelter. Get homeless people off the street, keep them safe… This is eminently doable, should have been done a long time ago.”
Is Cuomo right about the trash problem?
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a Sept. 16 report claiming that DSNY left 189 of 271 streets in bad condition as well as 159 sidewalks based on 311 complaints. DSNY saw up to $20 million in cuts from the fiscal year 2021 budget.
“Of course cleanliness matters. That’s why our heroic sanitation workers work tirelessly to keep our streets safe – and that’s why we announced three major new cleanliness efforts earlier this month,” City Hall spokesman Mitch Schwartz said in response to the governor’s comments. “This shouldn’t be about politics. It should be about every New Yorker working together to maintain the clean, safe communities we need.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that there would be a stepped up effort toward cleanliness with 65 litter basket trucks, a 24 percent increase, and restart of the Economic Development Corporations CleaNYC initiative that provides supplemental cleaning services for communities and parks.