Homeless advocates are criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's assertion that "no one is sleeping on the streets" after he was asked Tuesday about a report that the city shelter system is turning away families during cold winter days. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
It is a comment that, on its face, is just plain wrong. But it nevertheless rolled right out of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's mouth in response to a question about homelessness in New York City.
"Nobody's sleeping on the streets," he said.
The remark prompted a backlash, and it compelled City Hall to fire off a lengthy email with transcripts of past interviews in which the mayor has acknowledged that there are, indeed, people living on the streets.
By the city's own count, more than 3,200 homeless people were on the streets in January of last year.
You don't have to look far to find someone who disagrees with the mayor. Homeless men outside a shelter on the East Side of Manhattan told us they were dumbfounded by his remark.
"The mayor just needs to come out of the building," said one. "Maybe he's just looking around the hallways. There's plenty of people out here, homeless and stuff."
"If you ride the subway, you know people are living on the street," said another. "And people are living underneath the subway."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in a statement that the mayor is either blind or willfully ignorant.
And Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst with Coalition for the Homeless, said the mayor is way off the mark.
"It's a remark that just seems so out of touch with the everyday reality that New Yorkers see," Markee said.
The mayor's comment comes at a time of intense scrutiny over the city's homeless policies. Last week, a state appellate court sided with the City Council in its challenge to a Bloomberg administration policy that requires single adults to prove they have no other alternatives when they are seeking access to a homeless shelter.
City Hall is also facing criticism for turning families away from shelters on cold winter nights.
"We are trying to do what we're supposed to do: make sure that people who need services get those services, and that people that don't need them don't get them," Bloomberg said.
The mayor's latest remark is only adding more fuel to the fight over his homeless policies.