You are reading

City Clears More Than 200 Homeless Encampments, Sparking Criticism From Some Queens Pols

An encampment in Brooklyn that was cleared by the city (NYC Mayor’s Office)

March 31, 2022 By Allie Griffin

The city cleared more than 200 homeless encampments across the five boroughs in the past two weeks, sparking criticism from some Queens officials and homeless advocates.

From March 18 through March 30, multi-agency teams removed 239 encampments throughout the city in an effort to connect people living on the street with social services and shelters, Mayor Eric Adams announced Wednesday.

Adams touted the program as a way to help the city’s homeless individuals living on the street while also cleaning public spaces, like areas underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“As the mayor of all New Yorkers, I am not going to abandon my neighbors to face suffering, freezing, violence, or death — especially when the city has the power to help,” he said. “Building trust takes time, but this is the right thing to do because there is no freedom or dignity in living in a cardboard box under an overpass.”

The mayor hopes to move people living in encampments to city shelters — including specialty shelters called “Safe Haven” sites that provide more services and often offer private rooms. However, according to a New York Times report, only five people from the 239 encampments have agreed to enter a shelter indicating most were likely to rebuild their makeshift camps.

Several elected officials, including four who represent parts of Queens, condemned the removal of the encampments.

Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, whose district includes Williamsburg and a section of Ridgewood, called on Adams to end the “sweeps of homeless encampments”. She was particularly disturbed when sanitation workers and the NYPD cleared a homeless camp underneath the BQE in Brooklyn earlier this week.

As the local reps, @LincolnRestler, @EmilyAssembly, @JuliaCarmel__ @NydiaVelazquez & I were disturbed by the violent displacement of homeless people from under the BQE as temps dropped below freezing,” she said in a joint statement with other lawmakers who represent the area under the BQE where the encampments were cleared. “Their possessions were thrown out but no housing solutions were provided.”

Adams has denied that the city has trashed the belongings of people living in the encampments but said Sanitation teams have tossed soiled items. He also said that cleanups of sites are announced with a written notice 24 hours in advance and staff from the Department of Social Services offer to connect encampment inhabitants with shelter and other housing services.

Gutiérrez said the sweeps cause more harm to vulnerable New Yorkers rather than supporting them.

“Performing sweeps of our communities and trashing our neighbors’ belongings does nothing to address the root causes of homelessness or provide real solutions – but it does cause trauma,” she said. “… we need emergency and permanent housing solutions now. Every New Yorker deserves safe, dignified housing.”

Similarly, Southeast Queens Council Member Nantasha Williams, Chair of the Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights, called the clearing of encampments a violent act that robs homeless people of the only safe space they have.

“Without a comprehensive city plan for providing safe, stable, and permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers, the Mayor’s directive is not offering a clear solution to homelessness, but is rather sweeping away the reality of the housing crisis in New York City,” Williams said in a joint statement with Brooklyn Council Member Sandy Nurse. “Clearing homeless people from public space for a short-lived cosmetic appeal is not addressing the root cause of homelessness.”

Meanwhile, State Sen. Michael Gianaris and Council Member Tiffany Cabán, both from Astoria, said Adams’ direction to clear the encampments was particularly problematic since he has proposed cutting homeless services in the city budget.

The preliminary budget cuts about $530 million from the Department of Homeless Services — from $2.58 billion in FY22 to $2.15 billion in FY23. Much of the cut is due to the loss of COVID-19 federal funding which supported services like free hotel stays for isolating people.

“So shortsighted to sweep up the unhoused like this while simultaneously cutting homeless services …,” Gianaris wrote on Twitter. “Where are they supposed to go and what services will be available when an already-inadequate support system is gutted further?”

Cabán signed a letter that was critical of Adams for clearing the encampments. The letter also included a request for greater city funding for housing.

“People can’t afford housing,” she tweeted alongside the letter. “If we kick them out of subways and tents, where are they supposed to go? City Hall says somewhere with ‘healthy living conditions and wrap-around services.’ But the mayor is defunding homeless services by $500M! Cruelty.”

On Tuesday, the mayor attended the opening of a safe haven shelter in the Bronx with 80 beds available to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.

Its opening was applauded by the Coalition for the Homeless, however, the group denounced the removal of encampments.

“We repeat that policing and sweeps are harmful, counterproductive strategies that can actually push unsheltered homeless people further away from services, and clearing encampments is in direct violation of CDC guidance,” said Jacquelyn Simone, Policy Director for the Coalition for the Homeless.

“Without offering homeless New Yorkers a better place to go, these are cruel public relations tactics that do not address the real problem, nor will they reduce unsheltered homelessness on our streets and subways.”

Council Members Williams and Nurse, however, said building more shelters will not end the homelessness problem.

“If we want to end homelessness in this city, we need to stop fooling ourselves that clearing encampments or expanding the shelter industry will cut it,” they said. “The only thing that solves homelessness is homes.”

email the author: [email protected]

53 Comments

Click for Comments 
Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful

I hear those office buildings that employees don’t want to return to are empty — can’t they just situate the homeless there?

It’s cute to see Adams implore enough hot air to lift off a field of balloon rides.

2
3
Reply
A Woodsider

What ever happened to all the Thrive money? What was it used for to help mentally I’ll homeless?

8
1
Reply
Yes it was

You mean from 7 years ago? Yes it was, but your rant is so old the program no longer exists under that name.

3
2
Reply
Deblasio family values

And millions were stolen by First Lady chirlane deblasio
Happy about that ?

3
2
Reply
Clean up the city

They need to clear them faster: on my morning commute there were 4 homeless sleeping in one car on the 5 train.
Plus, grand central station now looks like Guatemala City with people selling churros, mangoes, playing accordion. Where are the authorities?

14
3
Reply
Gabby Marie

What about the constant child labor on the NYC Subway cars and platforms? Why isn’t anyone concerned about how dangerous this is for children?

2
1
Reply
Good moves

“If we kick them out of subways and tents, where are they supposed to go?”
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not hear about another “mentally unstable” homeless man beating up another asian in the subway or throwing some lady on to the train track again. Instead of making tweets, how about these council members help back legislature that creates spaces where homeless could go, or improve their mental health?

13
Reply
Rocio

No person deserves this type of treatment. Its cruel and goes against all my moral beliefs and practices. Most homeless people are not criminals or mentally ill. I was homeless before. I slept in my car for two months when i arrived to nyc and then i met someone who let me stay with them until i could get help. Took me 4 months to get any type of assistance. And i owe it all to the kindest of strangers.

5
16
Reply
yes, my heart bleeds

No grows up with the goal in life to be unhoused. It’s not something that anyone aspires to. Unfortunate circumstances lead to unfortunate results. Most of us could easily wind up in the same situation – a devastating family event that exacerbates previously undiscovered mental issues, insurmountable medical bills, a spiral of sadness self medicated by substances (including alcohol) and in a short time, YOU are the crazy smelly person ranting on the street, begging for change. If only our government actually served and protected those that live here….

3
7
Reply
Anonymous

People commenting here are heartless , the unhoused are people, and they deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else, especially when you refer to them. They need help, and education, they need well paid social workers.

2
14
Reply
Joyce

Remove them all you want. However, if you have no plan to resituate, you have no plan at all. Just spending more taxpayers money!!!

10
2
Reply
Reggie

I am no fan of Bloomberg, but we are better off repeating his strategy of giving every homeless person in NYC a one-way bus ticket out of the city instead of doing anything Tiffany Caban proposes.

10
3
Reply
Dan

Until the “root causes” of homelessness are objectively identified and specifically dealt with, this societal defect will persist indefinitely. In the end, a truly viable fix will be elusive. Drug abuse is expanding and contributes to the dilemma big time. Biden’s open border policy is direct conduit to the problem.

6
2
Reply
Gabby

If there functional enough to gather the junk needed to create these little encampments, there functional enough to be employed. But they don’t want to work & liberal city councils have allowed it to fester by supporting this sloth.

8
2
Reply
City Council Solutions?

Four Queens City Council members object to the mayor’s orders to tear down encampments built on sidewalks, underpasses, etc.
So please tell us what they have done while on the Council, to address the situation.
As the mayor said anyone has the right to sleep on the sidewalk, but those who do, do not have the right to create “shelters”Who thinks these “structures “ are safe havens? Fire traps is a better description.
What do mental health professionals suggest?
What percentage of the mentally afflicted “homeless” are eligible for Social Security Disability. Can that money be a recourse?

10
1
Reply
Reese

My friend works for the city and she told me that conditions in homeless shelters and NYCHA are not scary due to social neglect, ie, lack of taxpayer funding (which is sufficient), but are scary solely due to behavior of people who live there.

40
5
Reply
ABoondy

why dont these so called pols that complain take them into their own home since they are so worried? nothing by progressive hypocrites.

9
4
Reply
This really is Republicans most nuanced understanding

ABoondy if you had ever lived in NYC you’d know there’s so many homeless that’s not even feasible. Thanks for offering no solutions!

3
1
Reply
Suzie

Yeah. I know. They’re just moving homeless people around. It’s whack a mole. Sigh. It’s so depressing. I just saw one sleeping this morning down my block on someones front steps.

16
5
Reply
Seth

The homeless themselves are the ones creating the danger to themselves and others. If they have a criminal history, throw them in jail. If they have a mental history throw them in a mental institution (and yes these need to be brought back big time). If you take care of those two subgroups, then the shelters will become safer literally overnight as those two groups are the ones contributing most of the problems.

42
8
Reply
Doug

I keep hearing that the shelters are so terrible, yet the City spends billions every year with no changes to improve the shelters.

28
2
Reply
ABoondy

thats because the “pols” are pocketing the money, probably through fake programs, then make it look like the money went towards administration. the IRS needs to audit each and every one of their bank accounts. i’m willing to bet there’s money laundering, bigtime.

6
1
Reply
Class project

Ok you take them into your house
These people need drug and mental health treatment which they are refusing
Lele can be your class project !

9
1
Reply
Francine of Maspeth

so why dont you let them live with you . What are you planning to do beside criticizing ????

9
2
Reply
Bill

Let’s put a homeless shelter in front of Kates building. Then she would change her attitude.

10
1
Reply
Lucky number 7 train

Does anyone remember the last time the city ignored encampments in Tompkin square park. Well if you dont it was bad. real bad and it ended bad. We cant not just leave these people alone ” they aren’t bothering anyone” that is even worse and more cruel. What is need is better drug rehabilitation and a better system of housing where good judgment is used so you dont house junkies and mental patients with say someone like lelu. Leaving some alone to freeze because they aren’t bothering anyone does not make you a virtuous person. It makes you part of the problem.

30
2
Reply
Lela

It’s cruel unless you have a better option, like permanent housing. Epic fail for Adams.

7
23
Reply
Kevin Duffy

“Epic fail” for Adams?..
He has been in office for 12 weeks!
The homeless woman living in her unseated fire hazard “home” under the el at 52nd Street has been there over 24 months!
City Council. State Senate. State Assembly.
Health Department(s).
At last someone important in politics has said the first legal truth…One has the right to sleep on the sidewalk. No one has the right to build a structure (tent, cardboard shed, etc.) on a sidewalk!
Now that this is clear. Are there any questions?
First, there will be no more of these structures or living in trees, or on subways (any part including trains, platforms, nooks and crevices in the tunnels).
Ask yourself…is their lifestyle ok for you child? Your mother? You?
Many of these people (persons) are MENTALLY ILL. A great society takes care of it’s ill members. You break you leg, you get it professionally set. You have a gall bladder problem, a licensed Medical doctor and a team of registered nurses, etc. cut the darn thing out in a sanitary building.
Part of their mental issues is desire to be alone for whatever reason, desire to be insanely independent.
And there are innumerable shades of differences. Based on their ability to spread diseases, they must be isolated from general society until the condition can be stabilized. Who just became enraged at that last statement?
Most want someone else to address the situation….perhaps if we change from saying “the homeless” to heath issues of my daughter, my son, my mother.” Try it, then think hard.
Are you happy with how your City Council person has addressed your daughter’s mental health and what services they have advocated for?

6
3
Reply
Enough!

Enough with the endless “we need more housing” for these people..and the “ Let them stay , they aren’t bothering anyone” folks. These aren’t displaced families we’re talking about here. These are folks that no one in any type of housing would want to live with ( mentally ill and severe drug addicts who are resistant to any type of social adaptability)…unless you’re a masochist who likes listening to random screaming, physical threats and doses of vermin brought on by obscene personal hygiene standards, you wouldn’t want to be neighbors to folks like these. If you do, I welcome you and the politicians that support them , to welcome them into your/their homes.

40
8
Reply
Jackie

Its all fine and dandy until you bare witness to an encampment being cleared. The look of devastation and fear in the homeless persons faces was devastating to watch. Begging them to stop and walking away in tears while cops seemed to have a smirk on their faces.

8
38
Reply
ABoondy

sounds like a blast. if I saw this I’d get a good chuckle or two before bursting into full on laughter.

5
4
Reply
Lara

Forgot to mention one of the encampments were filled with needles.

Homelessness is a serious issue & pols should be working extra hard and finding legislative opportunities in fixing the problem, not just talking about cruelty 24/7. Saying nice words isn’t going to fix anything.

32
2
Reply
Resident in Woodside

I could not believe my eyes I was walking along Queens Blvd& 46 St and they final got rid of that lady( ‘I dont bother anyone ‘) with her junk. Yes its so pleasant to walk there & hope it stays like that . Thank you Eric Adams & for M.Giannaris please bring the homeless to your home They don’t belong on street

48
7
Reply
Gardens Watcher

The south side of that area is cleared out but there was still a mattress and other stuff on the north side as of yesterday.

10
2
Reply
Mima

Did you really find it pleasant to walk by …. You lost your sens of smell? No offense but it stinks so bad for 2 blocks radius …. And the hot weather didn’t start yet….

8
1
Reply
Smh

Giannaris and his policies led to the criminal loving bail reform laws. Now he’s saying this is shortsighted?!?!?! What about the victims that some of these individuals killed, raped, robbed ? Their lives didn’t matter? The libs want to do their experimental rehab and reform rainbows and unicorn policies on a time when crime is rampant? Same with the criminals in prison! And it’s the same liberal trash who pushed for bike lanes limiting parking especially in queens and Brooklyn. The areas under the BQE is designated for parking. The working man cannot afford to pay for lots everyday and need those spots. So their lives get endangered with the homeless there. Once again the liberals and progressives fail to protect the productive law abiding citizens of the city. Genius of Adams to reduce the budget!

5
1
Reply
Zoe

Many people in WQ do not mind them. I see people talking to them, being kind, giving them food, money and taking pics with them daily. Its a beautiful thing.

6
41
Reply
Gabby

She’s part of the problem. Who wants to take a selfie with some one who doesn’t bath, shits outdoors and whose body has advanced scabies?
It’s a public space not a bummy liberal space
What kind of idiot thinks it’s good to have sick people in unhygienic conditions?

4
1
Reply
Mac

About time. It’s against the law to camp in public.If the people who are being moved out don’t want the help being offered then they need to find alternative help. It’s not a free for all, we all have to live by the rules and the law.

52
12
Reply
Mac

Is it really though? It’s not like these are password protected usernames but please continue to tell us more about your fragile hurt feelings 😆

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

Jan. 27, 2023 By Bill Parry

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.