NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took to the airwaves on Friday to discuss how his administration’s efforts to make public housing increasingly inhospitable would lead to a substantial reduction both in crime and occupancy.
With Bloomberg’s original plan to stop and arrest anyone seemingly out of place in the housing units under review by the same judge that recently declared the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practice unconstitutional, the mayor vowed to continue his indirect efforts to expel what he calls a “major blight from our fair city.”
“I hope Judge Scheindlin recognizes that the wrongful stops and arrests that inspired the lawsuit before her were not merely cases of indiscriminate racial profiling but were deliberate attempts to make living in public housing less appealing, so that tenants and their guests would decide to self-deport to places outside of New York.”
Currently, the New York City Housing Authority’s 334 buildings accommodate 5 percent of the city’s population but 20 percent of the overall crime. “The people that live there, most of them, want more police protection,” said Bloomberg during his weekly appearance on WOR Radio.
“What we really should have is fingerprinting to get in,” he suggested. “My guess is that very few would want to live under that level of stigmatization and would soon vacate, making room for new commercial real estate—the true lifeblood of the city.”
Not everyone agrees with the mayor’s plan, however. “Public housing residents, as well as their friends and family members visiting them, deserve the same level of respect from our mayor as any other New York City resident,” claimed Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Democratic mayoral candidates seeking to succeed Bloomberg also were quick to criticize the proposal. Former Comptroller Bill Thompson released a statement saying, “Just like stop-and-frisk, this is another direct act of treating minorities like criminals.”
“Mayor Bloomberg wants to make New Yorkers feel like prisoners in their own homes,” continued Thompson, an accusation with which Bloomberg disagrees on two counts.
“Firstly,” replied Bloomberg, “we’re only targeting certain undesirables, not all New Yorkers. And secondly, unlike prisoners, these individuals are free to pack up and go elsewhere whenever they want. Perhaps they’d feel more at home in Newark, New Jersey,” where, in 2012, there were 33.1 murders for every 100,000 citizens.
A similar plan to require fingerprints from food stamp applicants was struck down by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year. Undaunted, Bloomberg maintains that the policies themselves are often less important than the implied disdain associated with the proposals.
Bloomberg insisted that “tenants should be grateful for this paternalistic nudge. Newark is a springboard for a better life. Just look at Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is well on his way to becoming a U.S. Senator now.”
“Still,” noted Bloomberg, “for the obvious reasons, I would ask that Booker be patted down before he entered my house.”