Mayor Bill de Blasio last week finally announced new measures against homelessness and vagrancy, which have visibly increased in the city as elsewhere. “It’s a historic problem,” he reiterated in one TV interview. “It’s one that literally goes back decades to the Koch administration. We need to keep doing more.”
True, homelessness has persisted over the long haul. So have other urban dilemmas. Since taking office last year, de Blasio made clear that a strain between police and minority communities preceded him — something he campaigned on, as he did with affordability in housing and income inequality.
But as the mayor undoubtedly knows, the point that he inherited problems from his predecessors will grow ever duller as his own incumbency wears on.
New Year’s Day marks the two-year midpoint of his term. More and more, the crises become his own to face.
Every elected executive strives for positive contrast against his predecessor — even those tied to the previous administration, such as a vice president who succeeded a president.
The issue at hand, however, seems to reveal an inertia that belongs to this City Hall regime. For months before resigning as homeless services commissioner last week, Gilbert Taylor drew fire from within the administration, sources said, and was expected to be ousted sooner or later.
More visibly, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli revealed in August she was quitting as the deputy mayor in charge of Taylor’s agency — and has yet to be replaced. For now, top de Blasio aides Steve Banks and Anthony Shorris are publicly taking charge of the newly announced homelessness effort.
Looming ahead is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s own response to the homeless problem. Last month, the governor’s office said in a statement: “It’s clear that the mayor can’t manage the homeless crisis” and the state would “step in” with a plan to be released in his January State of the State address.
This season’s frosty relations between the governor and the mayor have a deeply personal dynamic — something not so firmly rooted in a decades-long social problem.