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tv   Eyewitness News Upclose  ABC  December 20, 2015 11:00am-11:30am EST

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because there are always better ways to do things. i'm vijay swarup, and i am a scientist at exxonmobil. >> this is "eyewitness news upclose with diana williams." >> we are lucky i only got 22 stitches in my face, okay? this could have easily been a funeral arrangement today. >> it is a most dangerous job, but it shouldn't be as dangerous as it is. a correction officer slashed by inmates at rikers last month. joining his colleagues to protest new and more lenient rules for prisoners. this morning, that injured correction officer joins us, along with the president of his union, norman seabrook. >> it's a profound challenge, and it will be for years to come. >> but first, mayor de blasio facing mounting criticism over his handling of the growing homeless problem in new york city, announces a major shakeup, and unveils a new plan to try to address the homeless issue.
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problem with everything we've got. >> but will this one work? we talk to one of the mayor's senior advisers, and we'll also talk with former city council speaker and one-time mayoral candidate christine quinn. she's just become the head of one of new york city's largest providers of services to homeless women and children. and good morning, everyone. welcome to "upclose." i'm bill ritter in for diana williams. the numbers don't lie, and neither do our eyes. the homeless problem in new york city either flirting with or at the point of being the worst it's been in decades or perhaps ever. much criticism directed at mayor de blasio, but the hard truth is, this is not a problem wholly of new york city's making, and finding an answer is difficult at best. the homeless situation in new york city has gone from bad to worse this year. in the last few weeks, police have dismantled about 30 homeless encampments. the mayor spending millions on new homeless housing with onsite social services, and now he's trying to do something about homelessness on the streets and aggressive panhandling.
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point, that we are gonna go at this problem with everything we've got. and when we hear a report of someone in distress, someone in need, we are gonna go there compassionately, vigorously, with all we have. but we will not tolerate any form of illegal activity. >> at a breakfast on thursday, the mayor announcing a new program nyc home-stat. it includes daily canvassing of the homeless from 145th street all the way down to canal. he promises a one-hour response time to complaints about the homeless, and it all includes more than 137 new staff and 40 police officers concentrating on homeless outreach. >> over the summer, he finally admitted that there were more people on the street and then now saying, "yes, this is out of control and we have to do something." >> advocates for the homeless are praising the mayor. this week, he accepted the resignation of the commissioner of homeless services. the department's being reorganized, and the mayor's finally stopping the blame game of saying it's his predecessor's fault.
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up with saying, you know, we inherited a huge problem. i think everybody understands that mike bloomberg dug this horrific hole with 60,000 homeless people. it's just unprecedented. but we have to look forward and look at the solutions, which we know what they are. >> if the mayor's successful, perhaps we will not see so many the future. if it gets worse, he'll have to take the blame. >> for all this to work, though, the city of new york has to own this problem. we have to own it more assertively than we ever have. we have to reach the street homeless literally every single day. forward now. joining us this morning, phil walzak, a senior adviser to mayor de blasio. phil, welcome here. >> thanks very much. >> it sounds easy. you know, everyone says, "oh, just solve this problem." why is it so difficult? >> well, it's a complex problem. there are many different levels to the issue. you have families facing economic hardship that find themselves out of housing and needing to live in a shelter system. you have people who are suffering from mental illness or
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then you have folks who are living on the streets 24/7. each of those situations contributes to the homelessness population. but they all require unique and different policy approaches to solve them, and that's what we're working on now at city hall. >> what's different about this approach that the mayor announced this week than the strategy of your administration, your boss's administration, in the last two years? >> well, this is a new tool to address specifically street homelessness. we have initiated a number of reforms over the past two years to deal with -- either to prevent homelessness and also to place people from shelter to permanent housing. home-stat is designed to address those who are living on the street 24/7, a population of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 people in new york city with individual and specific needs. our plan is new and different in that it does three things. one is a proactive canvass
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areas where there are hotspots, concentrations of people who may be homeless, or individuals who may appear to need specific help. there are other pieces that then dispatch outreach workers to these individuals and meets them directly and interacts with them, connecting them to services. >> home-stat mirroring the police department's compstat, where if you see a neighborhood that all of a sudden has crime, boom, you flood police in that area and try to get rid of it. >> but not police only. here it's a series of qualified professionals who have experience in the homelessness field who can talk to the clients about the needs they may have. >> you know better than anyone there's been just a ton of criticism about this. why did it take two years before this home-stat program was introduced? why not do it as one of the first priorities of the new administration? >> well, the administration has done a number of things over the course of two years to talk about homelessness. i talked about some of the preventative services we've offered, and 90,000 new yorkers have taken advantage of the preventative services like rent assistance, a legal aid that we put forth.
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new yorkers -- 22,000 -- from shelter into permanent homes. so we've been addressing it at a number of different levels. this idea, this plan, is directed towards the street homeless issue specifically. as i said before, it's a difficult, challenging issue and requires a number of different approaches to actually get results. >> looking back now, and it's easy to take a 20/20 hindsight, but, you know, sort of criticism, self-criticism, looking back, if you had to do it over again, would you have done this earlier? >> well, i think that we are focused on looking forward. i think that our responsibility here, it's a solemn responsibility, is for those 58,000 or so new yorkers in shelter and the 3,000 to 4,000 new yorkers who are on the streets, we have an obligation, as the mayor said, to own this issue, and that's what we're gonna be doing. >> as long as you're here, let me ask you about a couple more general things since you are an overall adviser of mayor de blasio. the mayor ran against the bloomberg legacy, and recently, in the last few months, we've seen him praise some of michael bloomberg's policies. why the seat change?
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back at the mayor's remarks, he always was very open and up front about saying that when he disagreed with the mayor or anybody, he was going to say that and when there was an agreement that he would support the mayor or mayor bloomberg or anybody. and for example, there were a couple of initiatives like the health push that mayor bloomberg did, the climate change stuff, the gun control issues, where the mayor has been consistent in voicing support for those initiatives. >> i haven't heard it. maybe it was just me that i hadn't heard that before, but you're saying he's been consistent. it seemed to me that the echo chamber was more anti-bloomberg, but -- >> well, he, of course, was never afraid to disagree on certain issues. >> that's for sure. >> but there have been areas of agreement, and they've worked together in some areas. >> there are a lot of liberals in this town who are upset at your boss, who have felt like he has not done the job that they thought he would do, a lot of wealthy liberals, who say, "hey, why haven't they come to us for support? we would be glad to help out here." but he has tended, they say, not to be attracted.
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has a focus on a broad agenda with many issues and is not looking to push anyone away. so i think that that true. i think that the tech industry, for example, and other economic sectors, where he's looking to be supportive, and he's always looking to develop partnerships that can move the city forward. >> so any liberals who have a lot of money out there who would like to help out this city... >> they can call me. >> they can call phil walzak. >> call me at city hall. >> all right, look us up in the website, and i'll give you phil's direct number. >> direct line. yes. >> all right, phil, great talking to you. >> thank you very much. >> good luck with the home-stat program. coming up, a familiar face in new york city politics -- christine quinn. she was the city council speaker and a candidate for mayor against bill de blasio. now, as it happens, she's in charge of a huge organization that helps homeless women and children, and she's working with the mayor and his folk.
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>> welcome back to "upclose." she wanted to be the first woman to become mayor of new york, and for a while, she was the front-runner, the candidate to beat, until bill de blasio grabbed that mantle from her. christine quinn is here. her new job -- head of one of new york's largest and most respected homeless-service agencies for women and children, called win. christine, nice to see you. >> thank you. >> so, your new job -- what's it like? >> seven weeks in, and it's amazing. you know, we at win are the largest provider of shelter and permanent housing to homeless families in new york. we house 4,700 people a night, 2,700 of whom are children. and the staff at win -- they're on the front lines every day, trying to help these families
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children. >> and when you talk about families, the women who are there -- most of them are single mothers. >> oh, yeah. 90 to 95 on any given time of our heads of households are single women with children. and you know what's really important? 40% of those women, when they enter our shelters, are working. so this idea that some people might have that homeless people aren't working or are lazy or whatever -- farthest from the truth. 40% are working but were unable to stay in their homes. >> right. and perhaps they're not working full time, perhaps they're working for minimum wage. >> exactly, exactly. >> so the whole minimum-wage debate affects you, as well. >> very much so. >> so you've come into this job at a time when homelessness is at our near record levels. this year, it's flirted and been there several times. >> and same with families. most people don't realize that the majority of the people in the system are families, and 20% of the people in homeless
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20% -- are under 5 years of age. >> so it's all these kids. >> it's children. >> and that is how they're beginning their lives, under this milieu. you've also come in at a time when the mayor, this last week, has completely reorganized his -- what's your viewpoint on this? is it too little, too late? is it just too late? is it better now than never? >> well, look, it's never too late, because we had 4,700 people with us last night, just at win, who need homes. almost 60,000 in the shelter. so it's never too late, first of all. and i think home-stat will be very helpful to helping the folks who are living on the street, which is obviously not appropriate, get into housing and get the services they need. but there isn't one announcement -- this one or any other one -- that is gonna solve the problem. it's gonna take more than that. and from my perspective at win, we need to make sure we don't forget the families and the children who are in this system. yes, we need to talk about and help the singles who are living on the street, without a doubt,
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entirety of the problem. and, also, i want to caution people. i completely agree. it's not acceptable to walk out of your home and see somebody living on the street. you pay taxes. that's not how it should be, and it's not good for that person. but just because you don't see someone doesn't mean we don't have tens of thousands of people who are homeless in new york. >> so when the police clear out these encampments that popped up this summer and this fall, your viewpoint on that? >> look, i understand totally why people don't want encampments of homeless people in their parks, places they need to take their children. and it's not good for the homeless people, either. but the question here, really, is, what do we need to do to help make sure people get out of the shelters and break the cycle of homelessness so they don't come back? and there are absolutely more steps we should be taking as a city, in addition to what the mayor announced this week. and i want to applaud him for it, but in addition. >> like what? like getting them into housing
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public housing -- or vouchers that we tried to have? we just did a story on the voucher system. our investigative reporter jim hoffer did a story. half the people who have tried to get vouchers, the landlords won't take them. it's like a market not taking food stamps. >> so, it's a couple of different things. one, let me start with shelter. we need to make sure that the shelters the city is funding and operating have comprehensive services. at win, we have the way to win. holistic services, childcare, mental health, substance abuse, job training, and beyond. it's not just as my father would say -- "three hots and a cot." people need services. they need to get to the root cause of why they ended up in a shelter. and that may mean more resources for shelter. two -- and this is a hard thing for people to digest -- we need to expand shelter capacity. right now, bill, there are 3,000 private apartments in new york city that are being used as temporary shelter.
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of those and put them in appropriate shelter with services, that's 3,000 apartments that would be open for families as permanent housing. >> i'm gonna move on raising the homeless issue for one second, but capping on what you're saying -- these are to a big problem in new york city. you wanted to be in charge of this. job. you didn't get it. is it frustrating to look at it from the sides, or are you over that two years later? >> you know, life is about kind of chapters or seasons or moments, and, certainly, i wanted to mayor, and that didn't work out. and now my season and chapter i'm in is being an advocate and a service provider to homeless families. and i'm 1,000% focused on that, and i've just given a couple of ideas. there is more we need to do. you know, you mentioned landlords who aren't taking vouchers. let me make it perfectly clear to any such landlord who's watching this show -- that is illegal. and there are groups like win
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are preparing to take you to court 'cause that is a violation of the law -- a law we passed when i was in the council. you cannot do that. it's happening, and it's part of why win clients and other clients are staying in shelter, and we need to put an end to it. >> you've never been shy about expressing your positions, and you're not now. are we gonna see a christine quinn candidacy sometime in the future? >> you know, never say never. but right now, i have a huge and incredibly important job, working with some of the most amazing women i have ever -- strongest women i've ever met. >> it's a wonderful organization, no question about that, but you are plugged into politics, and you know that there are many democrats who are thinking about running against mayor de blasio in two years when his term's up -- first term's up. are you among them -- number one? number two -- what do you think about this early in this process, in the same party, thinking about running against the incumbent? >> i think it's politics in new york. i've been there. i've done it.
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in new york -- and you always hear about people throwing names out. i'm not surprised. it's typical. >> christine quinn, great talking to you. >> thank you. >> good luck in your new job. >> thank you. >> all right, christine. coming up, we're gonna switch topics. violence behind the bars. we'll meet a correction officer slashed by inmates at rikers island in a gruesome attack. he and the president of the correction officers union say prison reforms by mayor de blasio are making their
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>> he's one of those in charge of keeping the peace at rikers, but last month, he was the victim of violence. correction officer ray calderon viciously slashed by two teenage inmates at rikers. he needed 22 stitches. shortly after the attack, he joined other correction officers and said the new jail guidelines
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correction makes their jobs more dangerous. the rules include putting the brakes on solitary confinement for any inmate under 21. >> you cannot hold someone in a position of power in the new york city department of corrections and their main objective is ensure that correction officers are slashed on a daily basis, stabbed on a daily basis, sexually assaulted on a daily basis, and nothing happens to them. >> i believe we're on the right track to reduce the use of force properly and to get away from things like punitive segregation. >> by the way, the city says the department of correction's new use of force policy was also drafted with significant contribution from uniformed members of staff, including the unions and the board of correction. joining us this morning to talk about all this, norman seabrook -- he's president of the correction officers association -- and ray calderon, who was assaulted by inmates at rikers. and you saw his picture there. ray, we're gonna begin with you. how are you feeling right now?
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healing. the whole ordeal is stressful. knowing that it's still dangerous on rikers island -- these inmates planned the attack -- makes it even worse, you know. norman seabrook -- he's trying to help us. he's trying to help the city and the correction department. >> you knew it was a dangerous job, though, for a long time, right, before this? >> right. we do. we do know it's a dangerous job, but, at the same time, it's becoming common. we know that we can be put in dangerous positions. but now every day, it seems more and more it's you go to jail and you're assaulted. >> are you back on the job? >> not yet, no. i am taking my time off to heal, mentally and physically, and i'll return when i'm ready. >> do you want to go back? >> you want the truth? no, i don't. it's dangerous, it's out of control, and it's not safe. it's just not safe to return to work in those conditions. >> norman seabrook, we need young men like him to be
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you hear, he doesn't want to go back. >> well, you know, who can blame him? >> there is no -- there's no law and order inside the city's jail system. there's law and order when you commit a crime on the streets of new york. you get arrested, you come to rikers. but then inside rikers island, you can commit any crime you want and not be re-arrested for it and/or put in punitive segregation... >> so, whose fault is this? how did we get to a situation where inside the prison is a danger situation for young men like -- >> i think that we got there because of the mismanagement of the department of correction in leadership positions. i think we've gotten there because of the mismanagement of new york. the mayor says that -- one of the comments was that he had cooperation from the union. that couldn't be further from the truth. they're very disingenuous. their numbers lie. you know, it's pathetic the way that the city of new york continues to try to paint a picture to the residents of the city that everything is under control. >> were you not consulted?
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process of coming up with the new regulations? >> absolutely not. >> they say you were. >> they lied. they lied. >> was anyone from the union involved? >> absolutely not. >> did they talk to you before, or did they say anything to you? >> absolutely not. and i'm telling them they lied. and, you know, i'm willing to sit against anybody who wants to bring me the proof, because it's not there. we did not have a seat at the table with the new york city department of correction and the mayor's office in coming up with any agenda for punitive segregation or anything else. >> do you think that this was a bad decision not to have these kids, if they need it, if it's required, for them to be in solitary? >> absolutely it's a bad idea, because when these young men commit these crimes, they need to be placed in a secured environment to protect themselves, to protect against other inmates and/or civilians and officers that are subject to by them. this happens every day. so if they know that there is no punishment for them to do this,
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happen more and more frequently. >> we did ask the city this morning to provide us with some numbers about violence against -- inside rikers. assaults on staff involving serious injury -- this last month, in november, they say the lowest monthly total since march 2005. there was just one. they say assaults against staff with serious injuries are down 11%, compared to last year. so they say it's safer. >> well, bill, you're entitled to your own opinion. >> no, it's not my opinion. >> no, no. they're entitled to their own opinion but not the facts. now, we can certainly prove what we're saying, with the amount of daily basis. the city of new york is being very disingenuous, and they need to be called to task for it, because at the end of the day, you have an officer like officer calderon, who gets assaulted, and they try to swish it under the rug, that it doesn't exist. >> i'm just a member of the public looking at these numbers. you heard the numbers i just said, the city said. i look at the numbers that you all are putting out. 15 stabbings in 2014 by inmates
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this year, so far, 64 stabbings by inmates 18 to 21. that would say it's more violent. >> absolutely it's more violent, and the city of new york knows it's more violent, and their job is to protect correction officers the same way that they protect the rest of the public, the same way that they protect the police officers and the firefighters. we don't get the same protections. we are victims being victimized by those who have victimized the people on the streets of new york city 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. we have the homeless, we have the mentally ill, we have the innocent, we have the guilty, and we have less staff than we've ever had. the department of corrections is completely out of control. no one seems to know what they're doing and who's in charge, and the mayor of new york city continues to make believe that things are getting better. where are they getting better at? >> you know that there's been much controversy about inmates, not saying mr. calderon here, who's a victim of this, but some inmates being violent with some -- some guards being violent with some inmates. so you have violence from both sides. >> absolutely.
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>> well, i deal with it by saying if a correction officer does something that he or she should not be doing, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. there's no way of plea-bargaining that. we've had correction officers promote prison contraband. i'm totally against that. members of the board are against that. but at the end of the day, you can't take one isolated or seven isolated incidents and compare that to the thousands of times we're assaulted, the thousands of times in one year that, you know, we come in contact with urine and feces thrown in our face. you can't do that. so, i understand the mayor and others are gonna say, "but, look, this guy promoted prison contraband." i got that. he was arrested, he was charged, he was convicted. but what do i say to the person that slashed mr. calderon's face? they can't even put him in punitive segregation. what do they do? they move him from one housing area to another. >> well, i assume they are facing charges and they will be dealt with and punished, right? >> well, the only thing that's gonna happen to them is that they're gonna be re-arrested, and with the bronx district attorney's office, thankfully, we're having a new d.a. in a couple of weeks. probably be prosecuted more
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bob johnson doing it. but at the end of the day, you still can't put this person in punitive segregation. >> how do we get to some sort of d\tente here and a real solution and problem solving? i know you don't have a contract, and that's a big deal for the correction officers union. you're trying to get a contract. but how do you get to a d\tente and a middle ground where some of these problems are solved? >> the same way we're doing right now. we're sitting down, having a conversation. the mayor? >> i have not had that conversation. and he went on radio saying that he'd be willing to have a conversation with me. >> have you called him? >> he can call me, as well, but i have reached out to the mayor on several occasions to talk about things. he has directed me to certain people that work for him. okay, and i've spoken to those people. those people do not make decisions. i don't want to talk to somebody who doesn't make decisions. i make decisions for the c.o.b.a. he makes decisions for the city of new york. that's who needs to be in the room together. we need to having that conversation. >> norman seabrook, thank you for this. and, mr. calderon, good luck to you.
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and i appreciate you coming on and talking to us. >> no problem. thank you. >> good luck in recovering. >> thanks, bill. >> thank you. on that note, that'll do it for this edition of "upclose." before we leave, i want to say we hope to have correction commissioner joseph ponte on a future show. we have reached out to him, and we are in the middle of negotiating his presence for an interview here. thank you for watching. if you missed any of today's program, you can catch it again on our website -- abc7ny. thanks again for watching. for all of us here at channel 7, i'm bill ritter.
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