Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that his homelessness commissioner, Gilbert Taylor, is resigning. Taylor is the second prominent official trying to fix the city’s homelessness problem to leave the de Blasio administration in recent months; Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli stepped down in September. She told the New York Times that quitting the stressful job “was a gift to [her]self.”
In the months since her departure, the mayor has only seen more criticism for his approach to homelessness — and from increasingly prominent critics. A spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo said last month that “it’s clear that the Mayor can’t manage the homeless crisis and the State does intend to step in with both management expertise and resources in a plan to be released in the State of the State.” Cuomo, who is basically always fighting with de Blasio now, said, “New York state is spending a billion dollars on homelessness in New York City. So it’s not the money. I think it’s more of a question of the intelligence and the management.”
Earlier in November, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said that “a mistake the administration made early on [with homelessness] was not validating what everyone was seeing.”
De Blasio told WNYC in late November that he agreed with Bratton — although he also thought the state wasn’t doing enough to help fund policies to fix this issue, despite Cuomo’s dig at his leadership skills. “I think I should have done a better job of explaining that to people six months or more ago and also showing them all the effort that was being expended to address the problem,” he said. “That’s certainly a mistake I won’t make again.”
Today, the mayor, who called homelessness an “urgent priority,” said he plans on restructuring the entire homeless-services agency, which was created more than two decades ago. Steven Banks, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, and First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris will lead the project. Taylor will have an “advisory role” during the revamp.
There were about 53,000 homeless people in the city when de Blasio began his tenure; now there are nearly 60,000, including more than 23,000 children. The number of people in city homeless shelters had already reached record heights before de Blasio was even elected — and Mayor Bloomberg ended a subsidy program that was helping those in shelters transition into a life outside the shelter system. Last month, the de Blasio administration announced plans to invest nearly $3 billion in programs to tackle homelessness, including plans to build 15,000 units of supportive housing and social-service programs.
“It was time for New York City to act,” de Blasio said at the time. “It was a simple as that.”