Bronx Residents Say Another MTA Fare Hike Would Be Devastating: ‘Do I Buy Groceries or Buy a MetroCard?’

For Love Andujar, a single mother in the Bronx, facing the latest MTA fare increase means struggling to choose between buying a gallon of milk for her two children, or putting money on her MetroCard to get to work.

Andujar, who recently left her job to care for her son and grandmother, is currently enrolled in a program to re-enter the workforce. But she says it’s difficult to attend because she often can’t afford the cost of a MetroCard.

“There’ve been times where I’ve had to call out from work or miss school so I could give my fare to my child,” says Andujar. “What happens to people like me? The cost of $135 a month is a lot of money for me. It puts me in a position to have to sacrifice food or an activity with my kids just to be able to go out and find work.”

Andujar was one of many Bronx residents, community advocates, and elected officials to testify at a Bronx public hearing on two MTA fare hike proposals on Tuesday night. Attendees urged the MTA board members to consider the impact of the impending 4 percent increase on fares and tolls of subways, bridges, and tunnels on commuters, especially when current fares are unaffordable for low-income New Yorkers.

One of the two plans set to be implemented in March would keep the base fare at $2.75, but reduce the 11 percent bonus riders get for putting $5.50 on their card to 5 percent. The second option would increase the base fare of a MetroCard swipe to $3 with a purchase bonus of 16 percent.

Ronald Griffin, a Bronx resident and member of the Riders Alliance, a commuter advocacy group, says he can’t afford a MetroCard for himself or his two sons, who are both in college.

“I shouldn’t have to think: do I buy groceries, pay my rent, or buy a MetroCard?” says Griffin, 46. “I think that, soon, this city will only be for the rich.”

According to a report released in April by the Community Service Society, an antipoverty non-profit organization, one of four low-income working New Yorkers cannot afford bus and subway fares. The Community Service Society, along with Riders Alliance, are pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to consider subsidized fares for the approximately 800,000 New Yorkers at or below the poverty line, and include an additional $200 million in funding for half-price MetroCards in the executive budget for January.

“We have this real emergency where folks have to sacrifice meals for MetroCards,” Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager of Riders Alliance, tells the Voice. “Meanwhile, the fares continue to go up and still we see terrible service, signal malfunctions, transit deserts, a lack of buses. Mayor de Blasio ran on a platform of economic equality, and that’s part of why we’re asking him to alleviate poverty and get people to work, school, and doctor’s appointments.”

A majority of Council Members and several borough presidents support the idea. Bronx Deputy Borough President, Aurelia Greene, speaking on behalf of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., noted the Community Service Society report’s findings that transit expenses often exceeded 10 percent of family budgets for the working poor, and the “Fair Fare” program could save riders up to $700 each year off monthly unlimited passes.

“For a relatively small amount of money, considering the size of the city’s budget, we can make the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers appreciably better,” Greene told the board members.

Here are the upcoming MTA hearings on the fare increase scheduled for this month:

Thursday, December 15, 2016:
West of Hudson
Crowne Plaza Suffern
Montebello Ballroom
3 Executive Blvd
Suffern, NY.
Registration period is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Hearing begins at 5 p.m.
By Metro-North: from Hoboken Terminal New Jersey to Suffern Station where taxi service is available

Monday, December 19, 2016:
Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn College
2900 Campus Road (near the junction of Nostrand Avenue and Avenue H)
Brooklyn, NY.
Registration period is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Hearing begins at 5 p.m.
By Subway: 2 or 5 train to Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College
By Bus: B6, B11, B41, B41-LTD, B44, B44 SBS, B103, Q35

Tuesday, December 20, 2016:
New York Power Authority
Jaguar Room
123 Main Street (Enter on Hamilton Ave.)
White Plains, NY.
Registration period is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Hearing begins at 5 p.m.
By Metro-North: to White Plains Station


Can NY Really End the AIDS Epidemic by 2020? Five Experts Weigh In

This past Thursday was World AIDS Day, and the city unveiled a new memorial to honor those who lost their lives due to complications from AIDS at the site of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, which was once home to the city’s first and largest AIDS ward. There was also a bit of good news: the Health Department announced that for the first time in the history of the AIDS epidemic, the annual number of new HIV diagnoses had fallen below 2,500. Additionally, no babies were born with HIV across the five boroughs in 2015.

Those record lows are steps forward in what Governor Andrew Cuomo called a “blueprint” to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020, an ambitious plan he announced in June 2014. Since the epidemic emerged in the 1980s, some 35 million people are known to have died from complications due to HIV and AIDS. In the United States, more than 1.2 million people live with HIV. In New York, nearly one in 10 residents are living with HIV.

Last year, Cuomo announced plans to invest $200 million in additional state funding toward initiatives to boost treatment, prevent exposure, and expand access to services — an increase over the $2.5 billion spent annually on state programs for people with HIV and AIDS.

And on Thursday, Cuomo unveiled more new initiatives, including a proposal that requires all service providers to track viral suppression rates of people who are HIV-positive, expanding access to HIV preventative services for youth patients, and increasing access to HIV/AIDS related medical information and data for researchers. He also set an additional goal — zero deaths from AIDS and HIV transmission through injection drug use by 2020.

The Voice spoke with several AIDS activists and researchers who commented on New York’s progress and weighed in on whether Governor Cuomo is making good on his pledge to end the epidemic by 2020, and what still needs to be done.

Kelsey Louie, CEO, Gay Men’s Health Crisis non-profit and Member, Governor Cuomo’s New York State End-AIDS Task Force

What we’re up against are two things that not even the governor can address: Complacency and stigma. These are really pervasive. When there’s stigma, people are less likely to talk about HIV, ask questions, get tested, and seek treatment.

Governor Cuomo’s plan is achievable if there is attention paid to the recommendations made in the plan, to get the state to less than 750 new infections. If there are dollars attached to the new initiatives, it can be done. That is a critical piece. The dollar value has been difficult to nail down because a lot of these recommendations are in planning stages, and until they’re implemented, we won’t know the exact cost. That said, the governor had announced a recommitment at World AIDS Day last year, too, and what actually came through in funds allocated was slightly under. But then, there were dollars pulled from City Council. It’s a very complicated process. It would’ve been impossible to expect all of the funding for the initiatives would happen in year one.

Mark Harrington, Executive Director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG)

We’re definitely making progress, but it’s not happening as deep as we need it to be in terms of accelerating the decline. That’s why the early treatment and PrEP parts are so important in the plan. My feeling is we’re probably on track to achieve the goal in NYC, Long Island, the Hudson Valley — they’re more urbanized and there are more HIV services. But I’m concerned about the rural areas and upstate New York, in a lot of counties there isn’t access to services. New York City and state are paying subsidies to ensure people with HIV get housing, but that hasn’t been applied upstate yet. They don’t have the housing because NYC is putting in the majority of the money for that. A lot of the other municipalities don’t have as much money to leverage state resources to get those housing guarantees and services. And we need a single point of access to all services — clinics for case management, treatment, and prevention. There’s probably an estimated 6,000 people that are unstably housed or homeless and living with HIV outside of NYC.

Michael Worobey, expert on virus evolution at U of A in Tucson, and co-author of a study debunking the “Patient Zero” AIDS origin story.

First, driving down transmission of HIV-1 to very low levels is absolutely an achievable goal, even without a preventive vaccine. Smart public health measures aimed, for example, at closing the gap between when people get infected and when they initiate drug treatment are extremely promising, because this makes it very difficult for the virus to find new hosts. And that is one of the major weaknesses of HIV: it is less transmissible than many other viruses, and it is not unrealistic to look toward a future where the average infected person passes the virus on to fewer than one secondary host. That’s sort of the magic number for epidemiologists since at that point an epidemic starts dying out.

Second, I gather that Governor Cuomo’s proposed plan does not fund measures to provide clean needles for injecting drug users. That is a major shortcoming. It’s like saying you plan to eliminate traffic fatalities but you’re not going to require car makers to put seat belts in cars. Providing for safe injections is the low-hanging fruit of HIV prevention and you only need to look at the profound success of such measures in places like Vancouver to see that they protect not just drug users but the rest of the community.

The Voice asked Cuomo’s office to respond to Worobey’s comments on clean needles, and will update here when they respond.

Jeremy Saunders, co-executive director of VOCAL NY

Through tremendous policy and political work the AIDS movement in New York proved to the Governor the science behind the plan to end AIDS, and showed him the opportunity to make a critical, moral commitment to end this epidemic that has taken the lives of over 100,000 people in New York City alone. But he is still a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, big D Democrat that we have had to fight for every dollar that we have needed to address the issues of poverty and homelessness that drive this disease. On World AIDS day, I want to honor what people living with AIDS have done to end this epidemic. Not Cuomo. I would hope he would agree.

Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS & Founder of the Hispanic Health Network

I’ve lost many friends over the years to HIV and AIDS, and it’s been a long journey to reach today. It’s a sign of progress that diagnoses are down, but it’s important to address the racial disparities that still exist. Black and Latino men who have sex with men are continue to be disproportionally affected by HIV and AIDS [accounting for 75 percent of new cases in 2015] and the infection rate is high for communities of color. We have the tools, and leadership matters. We need political will from the governor and mayor, continual funds for research. Another challenge going forward is to pay more attention how we’ll do a better job to remove to the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS, especially among health care providers. I believe New York can be a good example in the fight to end AIDS if we continue to recognize diversity, and be inclusive.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.


Creature Comfort: Post-Election, New Yorkers Turn to Pet Adoption to Cope

The day after the election, Andie Markoe-Byrne got a call from the East Village’s Social Tees Animal Rescue about a dog named Ethan. The single mom and her six-year-old daughter, Riley, had applied to adopt him months earlier, but after the alarming conclusion to eighteen months of campaign stress, Markoe-Byrne was even happier to bring Ethan home to Park Slope. She took him to work a few days later and discovered it wasn’t just her who welcomed some furry relief. “Every sad face smiled when they saw his sweet face,” she told the Voice of her subway ride to the office. “[He] cheered everyone up so much. He really was an election therapy dog.”

Nationwide, more than 50 percent of adults felt stressed by the election, regardless of party affiliation, according to the American Psychological Association, and numerous animal rescues and shelters in the city tell the Voice they saw an uptick in pet adoptions during the campaign: Social media in the days after the election was replete with posts announcing furry additions to human families; actor and activist Mark Ruffalo even joined in, introducing the tuxedo kitten he adopted from a shelter on the Upper East Side.

“We’ve had a big increase over last year, specifically, between September and November,” says Katy Hansen, communications manager for Animal Care Centers of NYC, a nonprofit organization that runs several New York City shelters. “We’ve adopted out nearly 150 more dogs and cats than this time last year.”

Unsurprisingly, the interest has continued in the election’s aftermath. “We’ve received a lot of applications in the last two weeks — there’s definitely been a spike in the number of people wanting to foster pets,” says Samantha Brody, co-director of Social Tees. Although her group’s application doesn’t ask why people plan to adopt, there have been some clues. “People were commenting on pictures saying, ‘Now I need a puppy more than ever’ in response to the election.”

Research has shown that interacting with a pet increases oxytocin and prolactin, the “cuddle chemicals” that are associated with a feel-good sense of security, and the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, connected to boosting mood. That’s why many psychiatric professionals include animal adoption in their patients’ treatment plans. Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, says adopting a pet “is a great intervention” for enduring psychological strain: “Pets are really good for our mental health. They provide a lot of structure, they’re protective, and when people are really depressed, they’ll still get out of bed to walk their dog. If someone is really isolated and lonely, or feeling anxious and depressed, I will suggest they adopt a pet.”

Ramsey doesn’t just prescribe animal companions — he incorporates one into his own practice. During evaluations and sessions, he sometimes brings his shih tzu, Gus, into the office to help patients feel at ease. “I’m so appreciative of Gus,” Ramsey says. “He’s just a great dog to interact with, and he’s a valuable co-therapist. He’s very, very effective [and] treats each patient differently.”

Dogs like Gus, who are trained specifically to heal humans, are also in high demand post-election. New York Therapy Animals, a nonprofit that serves people with emotional and physical disabilities at homeless shelters, nursing homes, and schools, has been sending out even more teams than usual. “My phone has been ringing constantly,” says NYTA’s director, Nancy George-Michalson. “Our program is accelerating at rapid speed because people are not only affected by the election, but [also] want to help and give their time and support.”

Brody, from Social Tees Rescue, thinks this philanthropic drive is another reason for the increase in adoption applications. “It’s twofold: You’re doing something that is therapeutic for yourself, but you’re also giving back in a way that is very tangible, in a different way than signing a petition or making a donation. You have this life in your hands that you just helped save, so you can feel the power of doing good when you’re taking care of an animal.”

But New Yorkers should remember that bringing home a new pet is a long-term commitment. George-Michalson cautions against making a decision under emotional duress. “Adopting a pet is really serious,” she says. “You have to have the right mentality, the time, the space, the money. To adopt a pet just because the election has given you angst, that’s nice — but it has to be conducive to your lifestyle.”



Gracie Mansion Gets Haunted for Halloween

Hundreds of little witches, goblins, and ghouls from around the city gathered at Gracie Mansion on Saturday as Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray hosted their third-annual Halloween party.

A gruesomely haggard butler welcomed nearly 1,500 New York City children and families, some from homeless shelters and foster homes, to embark on a haunted house tour. Guests weaved through the cobwebbed estate greeted by City Hall staffers decked out in creepy costumes to enact spooky scenes, including a zombie wedding party complete with a private chef serving a slimy stew out of a steaming cauldron.

Guests are greeted by a gruesome butler at the entrance of Gracie Mansion.

A tent set up on the front lawn outside the house invited kids to participate in a number of activities such as face painting, fortune telling, and magic shows.

The mayor and his wife also got in the spooky spirit and dressed up in social justice-themed costumes for the occasion: de Blasio played a labor activist, donning a brown suit and newsboy cap with a hand-painted sign that read, “A Living Wage for a Hard Day’s Work,” and McCray wore a coral dress and “Votes for Women” sash as a suffragette. They greeted guests and posed for pictures with children on the veranda.

The mayor’s office partnered with City Harvest to collect non-perishable food to distribute across the city this week, and with the Department of Homeless Services, the Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Education to bring families from across the five boroughs to join the Halloween festivities.

Damaris Pagan and her son, Isaiah, attended the Halloween bash.

Damaris Pagan, who attended with her six-year-old son, Isaiah, said she was glad his school, P.S. 112 in East Harlem, invited them.

“He gets to dress up like a zombie and have fun,” said Pagan. “It’s something nice to do for kids, and a change from everything negative going on lately — including the scary clowns.”


Lawyers Vow to Watch Trump’s Poll Watchers on Election Day

Donald Trump has spent the last few weeks loudly proclaiming the election is rigged, suggesting ominously that voter fraud on a massive scale will occur, and that his supporters need to show up and stand watch at polling sites.

“You’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to get your friends, and you’ve got to get everybody you know, and you gotta watch the polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas,” Trump said at a recent rally in rural Pennsylvania. “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.”

Now dozens of lawyers from New York City say they will be there to ensure that those Trump supporters don’t intimidate voters or interfere with the election process.

On Monday morning, members of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a group affiliated with the Democratic Party, gathered outside City Hall to announce that they will fan out across the country to protect the right to vote.

“Trump has said, ‘We’re gonna win this race unless there’s voter fraud in “certain communities,” ‘ ” says Council Member Rory I. Lancman, who will be a part of the monitoring effort. “He’s referring to inner cities, with mostly black and Latino voters. It’s unprecedented in my lifetime, this type of intimidation.”

The attorneys will travel to states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where last week an anti-Trump protester was pummeled at campaign rally for the Republican candidate by a Trump supporter.

James L. Ansorge, one of the attorneys volunteering to monitor the polls, says though Trump’s campaign has aroused fears about voter fraud at recent rallies, and his rhetoric attempting to delegitimize elections is dangerous, Ansorge doesn’t feel a potential threat to his personal safety.

“The acts of intimidation, discrimination, and of polling-place disruption are the real threats — to our democracy,” he says. “Our legal community has been so strong, as hundreds of lawyers have signed up to deploy to key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Florida.”

Lawyers joining the effort to protect against voter suppression will be in the field monitoring poll sites, making sure that voters understand their rights, and reporting any instances of intimidation, misinformation, and disenfranchisement.

“In New York, we’ll have a group of senior attorneys keeping track of instances when and where a voter’s rights are infringed upon, or if there are findings of systematic problems that could create a court challenge,” says Ansorge.

Research has shown that restrictive voter photo ID laws disproportionately impact people of color, and many of the attorneys volunteering are already traveling to swing states, knocking on doors, answering voters’ questions, and informing people about their rights as registered voters.

For lawyers and non-attorneys alike, the NYDLC have included a link on their website for those interested in signing up to serve as a monitor (or volunteer in some capacity) on Election Day.

Lancman says he plans to travel to Pennsylvania on Election Day for the opening of the polls at 7 a.m. and will stay for at least half the day.

“We must protect the vote, especially in places where it’s most threatened,” says Lancman. “Lawyers are in one of the best positions to defend against any illegal and unconstitutional challenges of people who are entitled to their right to vote.”


Tribes of New York: Tidal Fest

October 15. Barclays Center.

The benefit’s theme was access to good schools. David Saltzman, director of Robin Hood, said that ‘the [show] will raise money for the most effective poverty-fighting tool there is: education.’
The second annual Tidal X: 1015 concert was a party with a cause. Held in support of the Robin Hood Foundation, an organization combating poverty in New York, the benefit concert (put on by the music-streaming service partially owned by Jay Z and Beyoncé) attracted thousands of concertgoers, some traveling from other continents, for a five-hour show that featured more than twenty artists. Established acts like Lauryn Hill, and up-and-comers like Lil Yachty, had the stage to themselves for a few minutes each. Some made better use of the time than others: In the spirit of public service, Nicki Minaj ripped Trump’s third wife, saying, “Barack needed a Michelle, and Bill needed a motherfucking Hillary. You better pray to God you don’t get stuck with a motherfucking Melania.” The Voice talked with attendees as they waited for the concert to start.

Text by Anita Abedian; Photography by Dina Litovsky for the Village Voice


Best Place for a First Date

From Little Branch in the West Village to Raines Law Room in the Flatiron, there’s no shortage of hard-to-locate bars in New York. But perhaps one of the most divinely well-kept secrets is Angel’s Share in the East Village. For nearly two dozen years, this 1920s-style drink parlor has offered cocktail artistry in a dimly lit den that offers a special harmony hard to find in most overcrowded bars. Hidden behind an unmarked door inside Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho at 8 Stuyvesant Street, the bar puts a limit on its patrons — parties of more than four are banned, and seating is first come, first served — making it the perfect spot for a first date. Drink highlights include a collection of Japanese whiskeys, plus signature cocktails like Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (served in a snifter filled with cinnamon smoke). A magnificent mural of angels (and a devil baby) spans the wall behind the bar, while a seat by the window offers a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square. 

8 Stuyvesant Street, Manhattan



Best Bar for Experiencing Tokyo Speakeasy Culture Without Traveling to Tokyo

Sitting below 9th Street in the East Village, next to an inconspicuous wooden sign imprinted with a sake bottle and tucked down a small set of stairs, is a red-lighted, postapocalyptic-looking bar that’s been serving up sake since 1993. Sake Bar Decibel has long been known as one of New York’s original spots for a true Japanese sake experience, with a robust selection of nearly a hundred varieties of sake and shochu on the list. A visit will transport you to the dark corners of Tokyo, courtesy of synthesizer-heavy Japanese rock music, Gundam action figures, and graffiti scrawled all over the walls and low ceiling. Drinks are served on candlelit cocktail tables — unless you opt for a seat along the small five-person sake bar — and glasses are filled to the brim in a lacquer box to catch the overflow from generous pours. The drinks pair well with street-style Japanese bar food — small plates include wasabi dumplings, okonomiyaki (stuffed pancakes), sashimi, and an assortment of appetizers. 

240 East 9th Street, Manhattan



Best Place to Become a Ping-Pong Pro

When Rachel Smith took her nine-year-old son, Ivor, for ping-pong lessons, she took him to a Manhattan table tennis club she’d heard good things about. What she didn’t discover until later was that she hadn’t brought him to just any club — he was learning from a former Olympic athlete.

“This is what he loves to do,” says Smith of her son’s first day of lessons. “We were so excited to find this place, and I’m excited that a champion ping-pong player runs it.”

The Wang Chen Table Tennis Club (250 West 100th Street, Manhattan, is named for a woman who made it to the quarterfinals in the 2008 Summer Olympics. “I teach everyone from 4- to 84-year-olds,” says Chen, 42. Her clients at the club have included an NYU professor, an orthopedic surgeon, and Keanu Reeves. “I gave him lessons. He always wanted to play, but he wasn’t very good.”

The club is a rare affordable hangout in today’s New York. It helps that Chen’s landlord is a former student, Jerry Wartski. “He had this small table tennis club on West 100th Street, so he offered me a job,” says Chen. “I didn’t know he’d name the club after me. I just pay a little bit of rent. I thought there’s no interest in table tennis in America. But I started teaching and I found out students are interested.”

The club is packed most evenings, and with more than your average ping-pong enthusiasts. The Upper West Side spot draws table tennis pros from across the city and regulars of all ages, including young newcomers, with after-school programs, training sessions with expert coaches, and affordable membership rates. Unlimited play is just $20 a month — what you’d pay for just one hour at Susan Sarandon’s SPiN. And as the main game room is the size of a small gym, with seven professional tables available, anyone who wants to improve their game or just learn how to play can walk in and hope to grab a paddle. (The club doesn’t take reservations.)

The low-key, no-frills club doesn’t have the bar and nightclub atmosphere of other table tennis venues, but it has seen its share of other high-profile celebrities besides Reeves, including John McEnroe on occasion. And Chen herself often makes an appearance. “I’m still active and still playing, and I think people who come to my place admire what I did in the Olympics and they share my passion for the sport,” she says. “We don’t need alcohol and food here — we only need table tennis.”


30,000 Children Are Living in NYC Shelters: ‘The System Is Beyond the Breaking Point’

As the rate of homelessness in New York City has reached a record high, with around 60,000 people living in shelters, the effects on the 30,000 children in the system are devastating. Students often move multiple times on short notice, and because the system is so stretched, they’re housed farther from their “school of origin,” which increases commute time and makes them late to class.

They also face emotional trauma: Some 60 percent of the homeless students were either “chronically absent” or “severely chronically absent,” according to a report released Tuesday by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

The report focuses on students living in shelters and uses data from the 2013–14 school year.

Liza Pappas, the author of the report, tells the Voice, “the system is beyond a breaking point.”

There are 117 “family assistants” in the Temporary Housing program run by the education department for the 30,000 school-age children in 200 DHS-funded shelters in the city. That’s 1 caseworker per 256 children.

“This isn’t a surprise,” says Randi Levine, an early-childhood expert at Advocates for Children of New York City. “The report confirms the data that we’ve seen over recent years that students who are homeless have poor rates of attendance at schools and poor school outcomes.”

The report describes the numbing bureaucracy the children live with. There are room inspections, for which parents must be present, and these can occur at night, which keeps children awake late. The report also makes note of “death by appointment,” describing all the red tape parents must negotiate to apply for benefits, which eats up much of their days and makes it hard for them to pick up or drop off children at school. “In those instances families could opt not to send their children to school,” the report says.

The vastness of the city adds to the problem. “Time spent commuting to and from school at the expense of being able to be present in school or to do homework resulted in cumulative disadvantages for students living in shelters,” the report states. “Students who come late to school miss out on more instructional time and fall further behind educationally.”

In the report, the mother of an elementary school student said all the travel time to and from school meant her daughter didn’t have time for homework.

“It’s kind of hard for her to be moving over and over and over,” says the parent. “That’s why I tried to keep this school as stable as possible. …’Cause I mean sometimes by the time we finish traveling, I’m not going to force her to sit up and do homework.”

“Right now the shelter system is as full as it’s ever been and it makes it very difficult for the city to operate, and as a result we see families placed very far from their schools,” says Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney of the Homeless Rights Project at the Legal Aid Society.

A DOE spokesperson says some steps are being taken to address the issue.

“Homeless students are among our most vulnerable populations, and we are hiring attendance teachers to work directly in 23 shelters, adding social workers to 32 schools serving large populations of students in shelter, and building school-based health clinics to ensure they have the resources needed to achieve and excel in the classroom and beyond,” the spokesperson says.

But the real solution, as Goldfein points out, is to end homelessness in the first place.

“The number one thing that people need is a permanent home,” he says. “The governor has been sitting on billions of dollars of housing aid that the city needs to have for housing.”

In his State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to invest in supportive housing units, but he only recently advanced a Memorandum of Understanding to release $2 billion in funding for the creation of affordable housing units. Nearly $20 billion for new housing units was included in this year’s state budget.

“The lion’s share of responsibility falls on the governor to move families into permanent housing. If we can get people settled into permanent housing again, all those problems could go away,” Goldfein says.

We’ve reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment and will update if we receive a response.

UPDATE: Cuomo’s office responded with the following:

You’ll see that this year’s Budget appropriated the full $2 billion. Further, the Governor directed that the Budget Director sign the memorandum of understanding to release the funding to advance the creation of more than 100,000 units of affordable and supportive housing over the next five years. The executed agreement is now before the New York State Senate and Assembly for action.