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Mayor Names Human Resources, Immigrant Affairs, School Construction Leaders

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A longtime critic of City Hall's homeless policies over the last three decades is joining the new administration as Mayor Bill de Blasio's commissioner for the Human Resources Administration. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Steven Banks is going to be in charge of the some of the policies he fought in court for decades at a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society. Mayor Bill de Blasio is tapping him to run the Human Resources Administration, the city's welfare agency.

"It's there to be a helping hand, and it should be a helping hand," Banks said. "Unfortunately, over the years, it hasn't been a helping hand for people that desperately need help."

It is a dramatic transformation for the litigator who waged a 25-year-court battle against the city over its homeless policies. It was a fight that spanned four administrations and settled in 2008, with homeless families gaining the right to shelter in the city.

The court fights, though, hardly ended there. More recently, Banks went to court to block the Bloomberg administration's requirement that homeless men and women prove that they have nowhere else to go before they are admitted to a shelter.

"It's unfortunate that it's required a court proceeding to keep the city from implementing a new policy to turn away women and men seeking shelter," Banks said on January 20, 2012.

Banks and the mayor have some history themselves. They ran against each other for a seat on the City Council back in 2001. The mayor won the race.

"There's a little bit of a 'Team of Rivals' element to this appointment," de Blasio said.

Lorraine Grillo is staying on as the president of the School Construction Authority, and Nisha Agarwal, who previously worked at the Center for Popular Democracy, will run the mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs.

The mayor still needs to name about 30 top officials to his administration. He said that he won't be rushed.

"I hold a high standard," he said.

The mayor is skipping a St. Patrick's Day parade in the Rockaways on Saturday, one that past mayors have marched in with regularity, and on Thursday, he may leave the city to go to Chicago for an event with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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