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Council poised to sue Bloomberg administration over homeless policy


homeless Credit: Getty Images

The City Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to sue the Bloomberg administration for its hard-line policy change that could limit access to homeless shelters, setting the stage for a rare clash between the council speaker and the mayor.

With Council Speaker Christine Quinn spearheading the effort, the council is poised to file a lawsuit against the Department of Homeless Services and Commissioner Seth Diamond.

Supporters of the suit argue the policy change is "cruel and punitive," and will claim the department didn't notify the public properly about the change.

The department announced earlier this month that single adults who go to a homeless shelter would be turned away if they have other options, such as staying with family or friends.

It would be the first time under Quinn -- a Bloomberg ally and potential 2013 mayoral contender -- that the council files an independent lawsuit against the current administration.

Quinn told reporters Tuesday the administration has "flouted the rules and regulations as it related to public notification."

Councilwoman Annabel Palma (D-Bronx), chairwoman of the General Welfare committee, said the DHS attempted to make "substantive changes to its intake procedures for single adults in the dead of night and without council oversight or public comment."

"This resolution demonstrates that the council takes its role as a watchdog seriously and will continue to hold this administration accountable for all New Yorkers," Palma said in a statement.

Diamond told amNewYork the city is standing behind the "very strong policy ... that ensures shelters are reserved for people with no options." He's also said he's testified to the City Council about the policy, which has yet to go into effect.

Ken Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College, said the issue is one that Bloomberg and Quinn will have to "agree to disagree on" because helping the homeless speaks to her Democratic base.

"This may be the kind of issue in which the people around the mayor understand that there's no way that she can do anything other than oppose it," Sherrill said. "I don't think this is an act of rebellion."

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