A Personal Perspective
BY MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
If there’s one public figure in New York City who doesn’t seem to learn, it is Mayor Bill de Blasio.
During the height of a police crisis and numerous other high crimes and misdemeanors, the city’s top leader takes off for Hamburg, Germany to join anti-Donald Trump protestors in that city. Meanwhile, the city was in mourning for a murdered police officer.
Just the week before, he had declared on his weekly radio show that panhandlers “do it for fun.” One can hardly imagine that there could be much fun in begging for change in the streets and on public transportation.
There may be beggars who are not as desperate as some others, but—by and large—people beg for money because their options are so few. There can’t be any joy in that.
For sure, it can be an annoyance to dig into your bag every time you hear a sob story on the train, several times per trip—but that’s part of life in a big city such as New York. The choices are simple: you either hand the poor soul a dollar or you don’t. There is no need for the mayor of the city to cut these people off above the knees with thoughtless remarks.
To make matters even more confounding, the mayor followed up that first salvo with another doozy. Panhandlers, he said, cause a decline in lifestyle and give the impression that homelessness is rampant. Of course, it’s rampant. What are you talking about, Mr. Mayor?
Hiding those who are homeless and begging on the streets and in trains is not a solution to the problem. The mayor must devise a workable plan to continue providing affordable housing in the city. This alone doesn’t solve the problem, though. There also needs to be more free mental health support and job training available for those who need it.
Not every panhandler is just down on his or her luck. Some are there due to mental illness and substance abuse issues. Some are runaways or kids kicked out of their families for being gay. As a city, we can spare some compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Nearly every mayor runs on the issue of affordable housing as a platform. De Blasio was no different—in fact, he won through his use of a Dickensian title, “A Tale of Two Cities,” and we liked him for it. This is why we were taken aback when he made the statement on his way out of the city.
You would think that with all the protesting in Hamburg, he would have returned with a modified perspective. Rather, he came back and added even more fuel to the fire.
“I think—a lot of the times—they hang out, they make money and are really a nuisance,” he said. “I don’t understand why anyone would pursue that lifestyle.”
Pursue? Lifestyle? Mr. Mayor, it seems the lifestyle at Gracie Mansion has gone to your head. You used to be much more benevolent of spirit than you are exhibiting right now. A mayor’s job is to help “the least among us,” not to blame those who have been victimized by poverty, vices, illness, domestic abuse and a litany of other issues.
We don’t like being approached by panhandlers. Sometimes, you feel threatened and, other times, you have just given one too many times for the day and you’re not in your best mood.
But that one dollar might be the difference between someone getting a meal and not getting one. Let’s make this a tale of one New York.