The city’s police department has launched a new surveillance system to keep an eye on homeless New Yorkers at more than 10 subway stations, THE CITY reported on Thursday. NYPD officers will watch feeds from more than 100 live cameras that show views from stations and platforms in order to respond to “quality-of-life and public safety concerns,” the city announced in August. The monitoring program comes as part of a city and state effort to address homelessness in the subways.
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will launch a task force focused on addressing the New York City subway system’s rising homeless population, which has risen by 23 percent so far this year. The task force is expected to assemble soon and will have 30 days to design a plan that will “measurably reduce homelessness and panhandlers on the subway” by the end of the year. The announcement comes on the heels of a newly published audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli which found that a contractor hired by the MTA to handle homeless outreach was inflating its work and actually turning away the needy, as AM New York reported.
The population of New Yorkers living in homeless shelters has remained flat for the first time in a decade, officials said on Wednesday. During a City Council budget hearing, Steven Banks, the commissioner of the Department of Social Services, said the city has finally “broken the trajectory” and started to reverse the trend of uninterrupted shelter growth. “We would have more than 70,000 people in shelter today if it wasn’t for prevention and housing investments,” Banks said, as reported by the New York Post. The number of New Yorkers living in shelters has hovered around 60,000 daily for the last two years.
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According to a new report titled “State of the Homeless 2019” by the Coalition for the Homeless, the number of New Yorkers sleeping in shelters each night is large enough to count as the state’s ninth-largest city: Close to 64,000 people took refuge in shelters each night according to the report–a record high figure that fell only slightly in February. The report takes both Mayor Bill De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to task on the issue, AM New York reports, and advises that the city build at least 24,000 subsidized affordable units and set aside 6,000 units for homeless households as quickly as possible to keep the numbers from growing.
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In a statement this week, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka asked that New York City’s Special One-Time Assistance (SOTA) Program providing homeless shelter residents with free rent for a year if they are willing to leave NYC be re-evaluated due to “serious defects.” A recent investigation by WNYC confirmed that some families ended up in “illegal and uninhabitable” apartments in Newark. As CBS New York reports, Baraka cited the fact that participants were coming to Newark under the program–which pays landlords a year’s worth of rent upfront–and ending up in the aforementioned conditions, then being abandoned to become homeless again when the year was up.
The West 58th Street Coalition, a group of residents suing over the city’s controversial plan to open a homeless shelter on Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row, has won a temporary injunction to halt construction at the former Park Savoy Hotel, the New York Post reported Thursday. The residents sued the city in July, claiming the proposed shelter posed a significant fire hazard and also fearing their new neighbors would usher in increased crime and loitering in the area as well as “un-quantifiable economic harm to the value of their property,” as court papers stated.
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According to a new city management report, during the 2017 fiscal year, the city spent an average of $99 a day to house single adults in facilities in New York City; in fiscal year 2018, that number grew to $117 a day, the Wall Street Journal reports. The cost of housing homeless families in shelters rose in fiscal year 2018 as well, with over 22,340 children living in shelters–an average of $192 a day compared to $171 in fiscal year 2017. It cost $147 each day to house adult families in fiscal year 2018 compared with $138 a day a year prior. According to the city’s Department of Homeless Services, the bigger numbers are the result of an increased investment in services, repairs and security at shelters.
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A group of New Yorkers who live near Billionaires’ Row, an area with some of the most expensive residences in the world, filed a lawsuit on Monday to block a homeless shelter from opening in the Midtown West neighborhood. The West 58th Street Coalition sued New York City to stop the conversion of the old Park Savoy Hotel at 158 West 58th Street into a homeless shelter for men, a plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in February.
The coalition claims the shelter, which would house 140 single men, would have “an enormous impact on our densely populated, narrow, high-pedestrian-traffic street.” While describing themselves as a group of “compassionate New Yorkers,” the Change.org petition says instead of the city paying $50,000 per person to stay at the Park Savoy, “a homeless man could have his own apartment, living in the neighborhood where he came from.” The new shelter sits behind One57, a known for the city’s most expensive residential sale ever: a penthouse that sold for $100 million in 2015.
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Officials on Tuesday said the city will spend $384 million annually over the next three years to house homeless New Yorkers in commercial hotels, despite promises to phase out the once emergency-only measure. The costs, which will total more than $1 billion, will also include creating supportive services for families, as well as amenities hotel rooms lack, like refrigerators and microwaves, according to the New York Post. Department of Homeless Services told City Council members at a hearing Tuesday that the three-year contract is temporary, but needed as the city continues to open new shelters that will eventually replace cluster sites and other underperforming shelters.
Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio was criticized for failing to open 10 of the 20 homeless shelters his administration pledged for 2017, with “delays in the permit process, time-consuming negotiations with nonprofits that run the shelters, and backlash from the community and public officials” to blame. The push came from the fact that NYC has the largest homeless population in the U.S., climbing near 78,000. All of this coupled together, the situation is now looking even more dire, as the Coalition for the Homeless‘ annual State of the Homeless Report finds that a record high number of New Yorkers make up the city’s nightly homeless shelter population. This number, 63,495 (which includes 23,600 children), would make that group the 10th largest city in the state, notes the Daily News.