NEW YORK — “I can do the math — we are going backwards.”
This is City Council member Barry Grodenchik’s assessment of the homeless crisis since Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks nine months ago.
Banks finds himself in one of the most volatile chapters of his career. Protestors from Maspeth, Queens have been demonstrating on his Brooklyn doorstep as the commissioner deals with a homeless population that has hit record highs nearly 10 times in the past 23 days.
As the historic homeless population sits on the brink of exceeding 60,000, the agency is now also relying on commercial hotels to house homeless families. PIX11 News reported last week that the city is using nearly 70 commercial hotels to house the homeless right next to paying guests.
State Senator Tony Avella, who has been a vocal critic of the de Blasio administration for months, weighed in.
“These hotels were designed for tourists or for people coming to visit their families in their neighborhoods, but not for homeless families,” Avella said.
Avella, along with Grodenchik and Nassau County Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, announced Friday that the owners of the controversial the Quality Inn in Bellerose , targeted for most of the summer to become a shelter, are looking to end their relationship with the homeless agency and scrap plans to house the homeless, effective Jan. 1. This is the second hotel owned by the Patel Group that has promised no longer to serve and house homeless people.
Coincidentally, this is the same hotel that PIX11 News exposed last December. Back then, homeless services was booking rooms for $175 a night — yet PIX11 was able to book them on their corporate site for significantly less.
Homeless services leadership has not responded to numerous requests for comment during the past month.