What to make of the skirmish between the governor and the mayor over the city’s homeless problem?
One view is that this is more of the same, childish sniping between the two men who are supposed to be the adults of New York politics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in particular, seems constitutionally incapable of letting an opportunity pass to tweak Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The problem is that the mayor gives him so many opportunities. As is so often the case, the mayor here laid the groundwork for his own misery, insisting over the summer that the homeless population in the city wasn’t going up, a stance that was ridiculous to anybody not shuttling around town in a SUV. Then he tried to switch tactics and blame his predecessor for the problem.
Ultimately, de Blasio came around, acknowledging that things are getting worse and laying out an ggressive plan to deal with it.
Cuomo’s proposal, to forcibly remove homeless people when the temperature slips below freezing, is an unprecedently aggressive step for any governor. And it raises some serious legal issues that de Blasio is right to point out. Foremost among them: being homeless is not against the law, even when it’s cold outside. Moving people inside against their will is not an answer to the fundamental causes of homelessness.
Then there is the question of resources. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says the NYPD doesn’t have the manpower to pull this off.
But it’s an important debate to have and, if we can take Cuomo at his word, is rooted in compassion for our fellow New Yorkers sleeping on the streets at the brutal beginning of winter.
Credit to de Blasio for, at least so far, not taking the bait and turning this into another spitball fight with his Albany rival.