With Veto Override on Housing, City Council Deepens Conflict With Adams

A dispute between Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council intensified on Thursday, as the Council voted overwhelmingly to override the mayor’s veto and expand a city housing voucher program designed to address rising homelessness.

The override passed by a vote of 42 to 8, after which most members of the City Council cheered and loudly applauded.

“I want to be clear: These bills are about helping the lowest-income New Yorkers facing homelessness and housing insecurity,” said the Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, calling the bills the most “significant policy reforms to address homelessness” in years.

The fight centers on a set of bills that would make more New Yorkers who are either homeless or at risk of eviction eligible for a housing voucher program. Vouchers are already one of the city’s most significant housing initiatives. According to a May analysis from the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit watchdog, the city was expected to spend $636 million on rental assistance in the most recent fiscal year, compared with $16 million in 2015.

But Mr. Adams vetoed the bills last month because of concerns about the cost of the expansion. He opted instead to meet one Council priority through executive order: eliminating a rule that required people to stay in shelters for 90 days before they could get vouchers. Housing advocates have long urged city officials to eliminate the 90-day rule, saying that it would make it easier to move people from shelter to permanent housing, an issue that intensified with the influx of more than 80,000 asylum seekers since spring. The city is housing more than 50,000 migrants.

On Wednesday, city officials said that order allowed some 500 families who would not have otherwise been eligible to receive vouchers.

Mr. Adams attacked the voucher bills in an opinion piece in The Daily News last week, writing that “the package of bills they passed could cost billions” and would “make it harder for those actually experiencing homelessness to find a permanent home.”

Ms. Adams, who is not related to the mayor, took issue with his reasoning, saying that it was “disconcerting to see it misconstrued that somehow these bills would open the program to people in our city who are not in greatest need.”

The veto is the second that the mayor has issued during his 18 months in office. Mr. Adams’s predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, did not veto any bills during his eight-year tenure. Ms. Adams had warned shortly after the suite of bills was approved that there were enough votes to override a mayoral veto.

The laws take effect 180 days after the City Council override. Mr. Adams could then file a lawsuit to seek to overturn them. After the veto vote, he issued a statement questioning the fiscal wisdom of the legislative package. “We are reviewing our options and next steps,” Mr. Adams said.

The veto is another example of the increasingly confrontational relationship between the City Council and the mayor. The Council criticized Mr. Adams’s response to the record poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke from Canada at an oversight hearing on Wednesday.

That same day, the Council issued a stinging public rebuke of the mayor by annotating the opinion column he wrote for The News on the housing legislation. The annotations called the mayor's arguments “wrong,” “misleading,” “gaslighting” and “alternative facts.”

At a news conference in City Hall Park on Thursday morning, speakers criticized Mr. Adams’s opposition to the bills and said the legislation would help those facing housing insecurity and homelessness.

Christine Quinn, the chief executive of WIN, a network of shelters for women and children, pointed out that the number of homeless people in New York could fill Yankee Stadium twice, and the number of homeless children could fill Madison Square Garden.

“This is a humanitarian disaster, and we need to respond as such, and the City Council is doing so,” Ms. Quinn said, by “making sure people can move out of shelter and into permanent housing.”

Later in the day, Ms. Adams’s colleagues praised her resolve. Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán of Queens, a sponsor of two pieces of the legislation, said the speaker had displayed a “show of strength” and a “refusal to be bullied” by the mayor.

“Shame on you, mayor,” said Councilman Charles Barron of Brooklyn, who said the veto was in opposition to the mayor’s recent public discussion of his faith. “The Bible said you should be concerned about the least of these,” he said.

The Council had tried to negotiate with the administration but couldn’t afford to wait longer to take action, said Pierina Sanchez, a councilwoman from the Bronx and a sponsor of two pieces of the legislative package.

“Right now, our city is facing a homelessness crisis that is being compounded by an eviction crisis,” Ms. Sanchez said.

Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

Jeffery C. Mays is a reporter on the Metro desk who covers politics with a focus on New York City Hall. A native of Brooklyn, he is a graduate of Columbia University. More about Jeffery C. Mays

Mihir Zaveri covers housing in New York. More about Mihir Zaveri

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