Two Troubling Trends Collide in City Homeless Outsourcing

Gotham Gazette. Lesley Brovner and Mark Peters. December 12, 2019

Last week the City of Newark sued New York City over New York’s placement of more than a thousand homeless individuals and families in Newark, through the city’s Special One Time Assistance (SOTA) program. Under the program, New York City employed private brokers to find homes for the families in New Jersey and elsewhere, and, without checking to see if the homes were habitable, paid a full year’s rent in advance and left families to live there. The result was thousands of families sent out of the city into homes that were uninhabitable.

See full article here.

What Challenges Will New Police Commissioner Face?

CBS New York Highlights. November 6, 2019

How to fix this insane mess: Where de Blasio should look in his 30-day review of how the city handles serious mental illness

New York Daily News. Lesley Brovner and Mark Peters. October 21, 2019

In response to the murders of four people in Chinatown and the subsequent violent attack on a 6-year-old boy in Queens, both allegedly by mentally ill homeless men, Mayor de Blasio announced a 30-day review of how the city uses intensive mental health interventions to make sure potentially violent people struggling with serious psychological problems receive the treatment they need.

If the mayor is serious about meaningful reform here are some of the fundamental issues the review must consider.

The first problem is the most obvious: The number of homeless in the city is increasing every year, and according to the Coalition for the Homeless has almost doubled in the last decade. To be clear, not all of the homeless have mental health issues and not all people with mental health issues are violent. That said, people living on the street who do struggle psychologically are unlikely to get the ongoing and continuous services they need, which frequently puts them on a dangerous downward spiral.

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Private contractors require better government oversight

 City and State New York. Lesley Brovner and Mark Peters. August 21, 2019.

In late July, it was revealed that the Federal Aviation Administration had functionally outsourced safety checks on the doomed 737 Max to the airplane’s manufacturer, Boeing. The FAA relied on Boeing to conduct safety analyses on the new planes and failed to rigorously oversee the process. Moreover, the FAA never fully understood the intricacies of the safety issues involved. The tragic results, two crashes and a grounded fleet, have been well documented.

Also last month, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report that found the “MTA’s homeless outreach program didn’t do much outreach.” While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority spent millions to have a nonprofit provide services to homeless people who live at Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, the nonprofit workers did an average of only 2.2 hours of outreach per shift, spent most of their time in an office, which they often kept closed, and filed false and incomplete daily reports. The comptroller’s office found that the MTA did little to oversee the program, resulting in failures that posed dangers to both homeless people and commuters.

See full article here.

What Does Pantaleo’s Firing Mean For The NYPD?

 CBS New York. August 19, 2019.

The Root NYCHA Problem: A Culture of Disengagement & Dysfunction

 Gotham Gazette. Lesley Brovner and Mark Peters. July 29, 2019.

Last week the federal NYCHA monitor issued his first quarterly report. It was a scathing indictment of the agency, describing “putrid liquid” spilling into a laundry room and rats scurrying through a 14-floor high garbage compactor. As one resident explained, “we are hostages in our own homes at night…due to rats that are the size of cats.”

But as disturbing as these examples are, the most important finding was less graphic but ultimately more dangerous:  A systemic culture of failing to take responsibility. NYCHA, the monitor found, was simply unable to proactively recognize and tackle problems, and in many instances showed little interest in even making the attempt.

For example, NYCHA initially explained that it could not fix the leaking of putrid liquid because scaffolding was needed to complete the job. After the monitor made inquiries, the problem was solved in a matter of hours using a ladder.

Further, to this day, NYCHA cannot accurately identify (or even quantify) the number of children living in apartments with potentially dangerous levels of lead paint. Indeed, NYCHA cannot even accurately quantify the total number of people actually living in NYCHA’s apartments. While NYCHA continues to insist it has 400,000 residents, the Department of Sanitation estimates the number, based on waste produced, is closer to 600,000.

See full article here.

The NYPD’s broken promise on rape: The Special Victims Division is understaffed, lacks resources and has shuttered its cold-case unit

New York Daily News. Lesley Brovner and Mark Peters. July 19, 2019.

Last month, a New Jersey appeals court overturned an egregiously bad decision by a family court judge who had refused to try a 16-year old rapist as an adult because he came from a “good family” and attended an “excellent school.” The judge further downplayed the rape because the victim knew her attacker and it did not occur “at gunpoint.” The judge went on to inexplicably observe that he felt it important to “distinguish between a sexual assault and a rape.”

The judge has just resigned, but his thinking is not an outlier, even within certain parts of law enforcement. Indeed, in 2017, an NYPD precinct captain told a community meeting that the increasing rate of acquaintance rape was “not a trend we’re too worried about.” He added that “if there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones.” By contrast, he said acquaintance rapes are not “total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the street.”

See full article here.

Justice Department Investigating Death Of Jeffrey Epstein In Jail

 CBS2 News at 5.