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Move Your Protest to My House, Mayor Tells Maspeth Homeless Shelter Foes

By  Katie Honan and Jeff Mays | September 16, 2016 11:44am | Updated on September 19, 2016 8:44am

 Bill de Blasio
Bill de Blasio
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio called out angry Queens residents who protested against a proposed neighborhood shelter in front of Commissioner Steven Banks' Brooklyn home — accusing them of being NIMBYs and telling them to unleash their fury at Gracie Mansion instead.

The mayor, speaking with Brian Lehrer on his weekly call-in to WNYC, said it wasn't right for more than 200 protestors to disrupt Banks and his neighbors Thursday night. 

"If you have a problem, come to my home," de Blasio said. "Come to Gracie Mansion, you can protest all you want. Come to City Hall. But leave alone decent public servants who are just trying to give people a place to live."

The mayor said he wasn't surprised by the "not in my backyard" opposition to homeless shelters, saying they've grown for decades throughout the city. 

"I'm not shocked when people do not listen to their better angels," he added. "I'm not shocked by all the unfair stereotypes that often attend this."

While de Blasio acknowledged that concerns over shelter security were warranted, he said the city was working hard to make sure shelters and their surrounding environments are safe for everyone. 

"We have to make sure every facility is safe for the community around it, and for the people in it," he said.

"The history has not been good enough over many, many years. We have to do better, and we are putting a lot more resources into security in and around shelters, and the NYPD is taking a much bigger role."

Hundreds of residents gathered in front of Banks' home in Windsor Terrace Thursday night, chanting, holding signs, blowing whistles and speaking into megaphones, to pressure him to drop the city's plan to put a shelter inside a Holiday Inn Express at 59-40 55th Rd. near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Banks, commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration and Department of Social Services, was placed in charge of the Department of Homeless services after the mayor merged the agencies last year in the wake of a series of high-profile resignations

Protestors vowed to return to Banks' home every day until the shelter plan is dropped. The NYPD said the demonstration did not require a permit. 

De Blasio also said he'd like to change the way the shelter approval process is done, introducing a more localized approach to housing the homeless.

"I want our shelter system to evolve from what is a very cumbersome citywide approach to first a borough-based approach, and then even more localized," he said.

"I think folks are from The Bronx and happen to be homeless, hopefully not homeless for long, should be in shelter in The Bronx. I think people from Staten Island who are homeless should be in shelter on Staten Island," he explained.

"Give us the maximum chance so they can stay closer to their families, to the public schools their kids go to. This is the model we want to move towards."

In a statement, Banks said he supported any changes. 

“The mayor has made it clear that wherever possible, shelter proposals should seek to keep displaced individuals and families near the services and support systems they rely on," he said.

"As we evaluate how to best shelter the almost 60,000 homeless New Yorkers in our care, we will continue to move forward with this goal.”