BROWNSVILLE — It's been two years since Bill de Blasio emerged from a pack of Democratic contenders to beat one-time front-runner and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a spirited mayoral primary.
But now that he's mayor and she's the CEO of WIN, the largest nonprofit provider of services to homeless women and children, the two former rivals say they work closely together on an issue that has become a top focus of the de Blasio administration.
"You could not work more closely. Look, since I took this job seven weeks ago or so, I want to be very clear and thank the mayor, I’ve been given nothing but the highest level of access to every person that I need to talk to," Quinn said Wednesday at one of her group's family shelters in Brownsville. "We’re getting immediate call backs – commissioners, deputy commissioners, deputy mayors – everything we need."
De Blasio was equally complimentary.
"Chris has done a lot for this city. And she did it as an activist, she did it as a staff for the City Council, she did it as a Council member, as Speaker, but now, leading this extraordinary organization – Women In Need – which is really one of the great providers of support for women and children in this city," he said.
The pair delivered gifts to children who live at the shelter and then visited with a resident who says she and her children were forced into the street by the high rent at her former Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment.
The woman, Jennifer Ashford, 40, works as a social services provider but lives with three of her daughters at the shelter. She has a fourth daughter enrolled in college but hasn't been able to get out of the shelter because landlords won't take her rental assistance voucher.
Quinn and de Blasio jumped on the issue.
"We’re going to bring lawsuits forward, and make it perfectly clear to these bad landlords that if you think you can look a homeless family in the face and say there’s no room at the inn for you, you’re wrong and we will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Quinn said.
The mayor agreed.
"You cannot discriminate against someone based on source of income," he said. "A federal housing voucher must be treated the same as if you showed up with a stack of cash or a platinum card."
The joint appearance comes at a critical time for de Blasio, who's overhauling of how the city delivers services to the homeless. Over the last four months, the mayor has gone from denying there was an issue with street homelessness to admitting he was slow to react to it.
Two of the top city officials who handle homelessness have resigned and the mayor announced a 90 day review of how homeless services are delivered. Just last week, de Blasio unveiled a program called HOME-STAT to track each of the city's roughly 4,000 street homeless and to provide them with an individualized path into permanent housing.
Quinn called the review a "great step" and praised HOME-STAT.
But Quinn said she will remain critical of the de Blasio administration and has already begun giving suggestions to the Human Resources Administration, which is heading up the effort, for the 90 day review.
Quinn said city officials will find her "highly annoying over the next 90 days."