By George Capsis
I have to caution myself not to call a City press office after reading a press release like yesterday’s from the Mayor’s Office that boasted that they were getting homeless people into NYCHA, “vacant” apartments, which is much cheaper than putting them in privately-run shelters. I have to caution myself because I never get any information in these calls and I end up exploding in suppressed anger.
Understand that the job of a press officer is to put the best spin on whatever news they have decided to release. The “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions often terminate the exchange and also they know just about nothing of the content of the press release so they wing it.
But yesterday (August 10, 2016) was different. I got Dave, a 70-year-old guy who long ago had all of the sharp edges knocked off and recognized that I too had been around a while. So we started to talk, cautiously at first, and then a little more straight as we continued.
Listening is the best tool of interrogation—you listen, really listen, until they inadvertently uncover a thought they feared might come up with an awkward cover-up phrase. So when I asked about our lady in the black bag, who has lived for four years on the steps of the Charles Street Synagogue, he quickly corrected me that she was not homeless since she did not want to accept shelter or “assisted living” (like a nursing home).
Okay, I then asked, “Why don’t they get her into an assisted living facility?” and he quickly offered, “You sound old enough to remember when they closed all the mental hospitals with the idea that these people were better [off] at home or a neighborhood nursing home and then never funded the program.”
And then he slipped into a very old “mad.” He was particularly angry at the State for never coming up with the money and added, “and I used to work for Cuomo.”
Ahh, I had struck a nugget. “Can you understand the rivalry between Cuomo and de Blasio? Is Cuomo running for president against de Blasio?” I asked and “No, no,” came back from Dave, “Cuomo is a very unpleasant person—I couldn’t stand working for him and I quit without having another job to go to—imagine that, I had no job—that tells how bad he is.”
I did not learn anything new on how the city government is accelerating housing for those who occasionally can pay some rent and those who will never be able to pay any rent but I did learn that Andrew Cuomo is a victim of a towering ego.