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The work of politics has a reputation for being carried out behind closed doors. Yesterday, this was could not have been further from the truth as New York Speaker Corey Johnson walked his Hell’s Kitchen “beat” with the city’s top brass to confront public safety issues.
Thanks to Stephanie Jones for contacting our “Where’s Corey” hotline last night. “I saw Corey Johnson leading a big group of people around HK on my way home from work. I’m not positive, but I think I recognized Commissioner Steve Banks and Chief Harrison from NYPD,” she said — and she was right (and has the photo to prove it)!
Johnson brought together a high-powered group of local officials to review public safety issues in Hell’s Kitchen. Those on the tour included Steve Banks, Commissioner for Department of Homeless Services, NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison and Dr Dave Chokshi, Commissioner of Department of Health.
Joe Restuccia, leader of Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Coalition and Executive Director of Clinton Housing Development Company, reported the highlights from the walk to the Manhattan Community Board 4 Full Board meeting last night.
- Commissioner Banks “acknowledged the error in concentrating so many people with mental illness and chemical addiction in our neighborhood at once.”
- It is expected that within the next week there will be New York State approval to start the move back of homeless people in the area from hotels to congregate shelters.
- Once that is approved, it will take approximately 10 weeks to move all the clients.
- Banks confirmed that, irrespective of vaccination status, people will be returned to the shelters.
- The group spoke to many individuals and store owners. Reports included food being snatched off the tables of restaurants and one hotel manager saying “I’m paying homeless people to stay away from my building.”
- The group stopped at W39th St and 9th Avenue where “there was a crowd of, I would say 12 very high or very drunk aggressive individuals, and they actually started to yell at the police.”
- There has been a major drug bust on W40th and 8th Avenue by undercover cops.
Restuccia finished his report by saying: “I think we may be turning a corner. It’s one of the weirdest circumstances I’ve ever been involved in, where after crying out to DHS and everybody else to help us for over a year — Steve Banks is there on a corner to take a walk and talk.”
A spokesperson for Speaker Johnson told us: “Corey went on a walk through Hell’s Kitchen with city officials and local civic leaders. The trip was to allow residents and business owners to connect with city officials and discuss some of the issues they are dealing with. It included officials from Department of Homeless Services, the NYC Health Dept, NYPD, and Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.”