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'We Were Doing the Whole Thing Wrong,' de Blasio Says of Homeless Policy

 Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (right) said at a Bedford-Stuyvesant town hall meeting Thursday that he did not agree with the mayor's plan that would bring 90 new homeless shelters throughout the city.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (right) said at a Bedford-Stuyvesant town hall meeting Thursday that he did not agree with the mayor's plan that would bring 90 new homeless shelters throughout the city.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Mayor Bill de Blasio faced questions and criticism Thursday over his plan to open 90 new homeless shelters throughout the city, including dissent from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“I don’t agree with the plan as it’s laid out for several reasons, and the mayor is a friend and ally, but those who know me know I’m candid in my analysis,” Adams said at de Blasio’s town hall in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“When I read the plan, listen, I was angry, and I tensed up. And I said listen, we have to do something to make sure that this community is treated fairly.”

Thursday’s town hall at P.S 23 on Willoughby Avenue comes a week after the mayor announced his plan to open more shelters and shutter 360 cluster sites. The administration looks to cut the 60,000-plus homeless population by 2,500 over the next five years.

In central Brooklyn, three shelters are set to soon open in the Crown Heights area, with the first slated to open this month on Bergen Street. Crown Heights residents at a Saturday meeting strongly pushed back against the location, telling city officials to “shut it down.”

Bed-Stuy’s Community District 3 comes in second in the borough for the most number of shelters with 23 buildings, according to city figures. Locals recently tried to halt plans for a proposed drop-in center on Bedford Avenue, saying the neighborhood has too many.

Adams echoed the sentiment Thursday, saying the community has been “oversaturated” with homeless shelters.

“I don’t agree with the mayor’s plan, all of it, but it is a plan,” the borough president said.

Still, Adams called on the community to address the issue.

“I’m asking some of you to join me at Borough Hall and let’s come up with our own community plan of how we deal with the homeless that we do have.”

“As we find the solution, let’s do it in a compassionate way," he said. "Those people who are walking the street with shopping bags full of their garments, these are our neighbors. They fell on hard times, they are afraid, they are scared they are unsure of what their futures will be.”

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De Blasio thanked Adams for his work and followed up by outlining his strategy to combat homelessness across the city.

“I think we’re on the same page a lot of the time. When we have a disagreement, that’s also normal among human beings,” the mayor said of the borough president. “But we work together.”

The mayor's plan calls for a “community-based” approach, where homeless individuals will be able to stay in their own neighborhoods.

“We believe the best chance of someone getting their life turned around, getting back on their feet, is if they’re near to family, near their friends, near their house of worship,” de Blasio told attendees Thursday.

“We believe there’s much more chance of people being respected and accepted if they’re close to the neighborhood they come from.”

He was pushed on the plan by locals, including a homeless mother who said she was moved from The Bronx to Brooklyn, was unable to find housing with a city voucher and lived in a shelter riddled with mice with her two children and husband.

Others worried about services for the homeless population already in the area, saying that men from a nearby shelter are often seen roaming public housing buildings during the day.

One woman stressed empathy for individuals going through tough times, but pressed de Blasio on the timing of his plan.

“You said this has to be done and this will be done in the next three to four years. I need to say, welcome to Bedford-Stuyvesant — and I want to say, what took you so long? Why now versus the last three-and-a-half years?” she asked.

“It took us the three years to break through and figure out what we could do differently,” the mayor answered.

“We were doing the whole thing wrong, just like our predecessors had done the whole thing wrong because there was no reference to community, there was no reference to family.”

De Blasio added that he would like a “family-based model” to play a larger part in solving the city’s homeless crisis, with financial resources given to relatives to help homeless individuals.