Here in Rockaway, with gun violence rising, unemployment far from being solved and infrastructure issues too numerous to list here, it is becoming apparent with each passing day that our mayor is clearly not focused on what is happening on the peninsula.
Let’s be serious, he hasn’t been here since March, and has to yet to directly answer a single question or explain any decision made by him about Rockaway since.
So, it’s hardly a surprise that the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) would so easily lie for two months about its plans to dump 155 homeless families in a place where so much hardship is already clearly apparent. Better yet, even when publicly chastised by Rockaway’s elected officials, their subsequent response was not only arrogant, but delusional.
Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, DHS – through a spokesman – denied all charges they lied about their plans to turn the Dayton Village drug rehab center into a homeless shelter.
So when it comes to Rockaway, it seems lack of accountability starts at the top.
However, last week, one of the city’s elected officials did stand up to DHS and called them out publicly.
To be fair, as you can read in this week’s Wave, the peninsula’s other representatives have spoken out against the agency’s actions. But it was Comptroller Scott Stringer’s voice which was heard first -- and loudest – in Rockaway.
First, he released a statement charging DHS with “poor management and shoddy oversight” of emergency contracts that were handed out to contractors following the mass destruction of Superstorm Sandy. Some of the mistakes were so egregious – like lacking sufficient evidence to support the oversight and monitoring activities of said contractors it claims to have engaged in – that the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) may not reimburse the city’s bills.
As for the shelter mess, Stringer also released his letter to DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor (which you can read in full on page 28), stating “the current playbook for dealing with homelessness in the five boroughs is failing.”
He also goes on to criticize the DHS for its lack of transparency concerning homeless placement and failure to “consider either legitimate potential neighborhood impacts or the health of the families the residences are intended to support.”
Stringer shoots and he scores.
As far as Rockaway is concerned, Stringer made sure he was prepared for his Sandy Oversight town meeting in May. He sent an advance man to make sure people knew about it, his office sent people door to door in some cases to ensure a big turnout and there was.
Knowing full well, based on the feedback of his staff, people in Rockaway were – and still are – seething at the whole Build It Back and other rebuilding projects that are yet to be completed, he still came.
He came, he listened, and according to some, things are starting to move forward.
So, when it comes to leadership and accountability, Scott Stringer is setting a fine example.
Maybe he ran for the wrong office last fall.