Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched an impassioned defense of homeless services during his 12-year tenure Tuesday, saying those lacking shelter are better off in New York City than anywhere else in the world.
"I don't think there's any administration, any city that has ever done as much to help those in need as we have done in this city," Bloomberg said in response to a reporter's question about a recent series in The New York Times profiling a homeless 11-year-old Brooklyn girl.
"Should we stop there? No. Not at all," Bloomberg said. "But if you're poor and homeless, you'd be better off in New York City than any place else."
Bloomberg said he's proud of the city's work and said its homelessness rate -- one out of every 2,260 residents -- was much lower than the rates in Washington, D.C., Seattle and Los Angeles. He also suggested that reporters examine homelessness in other parts of the world in order to see that New York compares favorably.
Bloomberg spoke Tuesday after unveiling the LeFrak Center ice-skating facility in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the first stop of a five-borough legacy tour intended to highlight his administration's successes. The rink, part of a $74 million improvement project, is the product of a private-public partnership like those that the mayor has promoted citywide to improve park space.
Bloomberg's last day in office is Dec. 31. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who takes over Jan. 1, has criticized Bloomberg policies -- including those relating to housing and homelessness -- that de Blasio said led to economic inequalities.
Mary Brosnahan, president and chief executive of the advocacy group Coalition for the Homeless, said a record 52,000 New Yorkers would sleep last night in emergency shelters -- a 70-percent increase on Bloomberg's watch. "So it's incomprehensible that the mayor is literally 'proud' of his homeless policies," she said in a statement.
on Wednesday, Bloomberg will deliver a speech to the Economic Club of New York on the growth of American cities, his last major speech as mayor.
To prepare for his new administration de Blasio is contacting City Council members to advocate for Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito for the position of council leader. Mark-Viverito, an early supporter of de Blasio's candidacy for mayor, is one of seven vying to become speaker. The speaker is to be chosen Jan. 8 by council members.
"As he's always done, Mayor-elect de Blasio routinely talks with members of the City Council and other civic leaders about the critical issues facing New York City," his spokeswoman, Lis Smith, said in a statement. "The City Council will select the speaker, and Mayor-elect de Blasio looks forward to working with the next speaker and council on passing a progressive reform agenda for New York City."
A representative for Mark-Viverito did not respond to a request for comment.