Council Member Eric Ulrich drew several Queens elected officials to a City Hall rally Friday, objecting to the de Blasio administration’s efforts at using hotels in Maspeth and Rockaway as homeless shelters. The electeds’ objections, substantially focused on the process and lack of communication by the administration, left them exposed to the deep anger of the 150 or so people attending the rally. Those attendees, predominantly from Maspeth with a minority from Rockaway, deeply oppose siting a shelter in their neighborhood no matter what process or communication is used. Their anger eventually overwhelmed the elected officials’ efforts to conduct a press conference, driving those elected officials into City Hall as the crowd chanted outside on the City Hall portico and briefly marched on City Hall plaza.
Shelter opposition is a bipartisan, or perhaps more aptly a pan-partisan issue for these neighborhoods and elected officials. Ulrich, the sole Republican elected official in Queens, was joined by four elected Democrats; NY State Senators Joe Addabbo, Tony Avella and Jose Peralta and Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. There were also many past and present electoral opponents present. Senator Addabbo’s current and 2014 Republican opponent, Michael Conigliaro was present (disrupting the press Q&A). Ulrich himself ran against Addabbo in 2012, and Ulrich’s 2014 Democratic opponent Lew Simon was among those who interrupted the press Q&A. Alan Zwirn and Stacey Pheffer Amato, the Republican and Democratic candidates for the NYS Assembly seat being vacated by Phil Goldfeder, also attended. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sent a representative with a supportive statement, while her ex-boyfriend, and possible 2017 opponent, Curtis Sliwa appeared and made a fiery speech after the press conference was disrupted.
Ulrich’s characterization of his press conference as “not … to attack the homeless” but instead to “attack the failed homeless policies of the de Blasio administration” was echoed by many of the elected officials. They uniformly attacked a City process viewed as a failure, and called for more assistance and services for homeless New Yorkers. While the sentiment of compassion and the view that the process has been mismanaged may be shared by the rally attendees and supporters in Maspeth and Rockaway, it’s also clear that they’re not focused on the process but on the result. They do not want homeless shelters in the Maspeth and Rockaway locations considered by the de Blasio administration no matter what the process or level of engagement and communication.
That poses a real challenge for Ulrich, despite the disdain for Mayor de Blasio and his administration that he shares with those shelter opponents. A different process with a similar outcome will not satisfy those opponents. Ulrich, who is now in the early stages of a 2017 mayoral run, needs to bring satisfaction to his constituents while not adopting or becoming identified with the harsher statements of those constituents.
Video – Separate video clips of each speaker follow:
Council Member Eric Ulrich
NYS Senator Joe Addabbo
NYS Senator Tony Avella
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley
NYS Senator Jose Peralta
Dan Brown – Rep for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz