HELL'S KITCHEN — The long-time neglect of the city's homelessness problem was visible on the walls of the Bellevue Men's Shelter that he visited Thursday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The mayor said he and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks spent time trying to decide whether the bulletins on one board were from the Giuliani or Dinkins administration. Another poster announced the unavailability of a rental assistance program that ended in 2011.
"Why has nothing been changed since 2011?" asked de Blasio who took office in January of 2014. "This is something that needs to be looked at. Why did this city tolerate this?"
De Blasio, who has come under heavy criticism for his management of the city's homelessness crisis from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and voters, both cast blame and took responsibility for the problem Friday as he announced another major initiative to tackle what he called an intractable problem that has been around for decades.
"I'm going to be really clear and blunt in 2016: We have to be responsible for everything that's happened the last two years. And everyone else who was there before should be responsible for everything that happened on their watches and we can all take responsibility together," the mayor said.
De Blasio has admitted that he did not acknowledge the street homelessness problem soon enough and Cuomo, with whom the mayor has a long-running feud, has said de Blasio can't manage the problem.
The governor is expected to unveil his own initiatives to deal with homelessness next week at his State of the State address, but spent time at multiple appearances this week battering de Blasio on the issue.
"It is unacceptable. It has to change," Cuomo said about the city's "dirty and dangerous" shelters after an announcement that he planned to revamp Penn Station.
A Quinnipiac poll from October found that voters disapproved 61 to 28 percent with the way de Blasio was handling poverty and homelessness.
But like other intractable issues, de Blasio said he didn't create the problem. Homelessness began to spike after a successful rental assistance program was cut. The mayor said he's trying to make progress in addressing this and other problems.
"We're owning Rikers Island, we're owning the Housing Authority, whose finances are an absolute and total mess, that's also decades in the making," said de Blasio who added the Department of Education to the list of difficult issues he inherited from his predecessors.
De Blasio said he thought the problems were allowed to persist because "the needs of poor people have been ignored" and "swept under the rug."
A spokesperson for former mayor Michael Bloomberg declined comment.
But the mayor said he was ready to take on the issues.
"Here we are today and so on all of these fronts bring the pain," de Blasio said. "I'm perfectly comfortable being held accountable for all of it."