Mayor de Blasio urged New Yorkers to call a hotline run by his wife’s oft-criticized $1.25 billion ThriveNYC program when asked how he planned to address the city’s mentally ill homeless problem following a terrifying incident where a woman was shoved onto subway tracks, allegedly by an unstable man.
“I want to encourage anyone, if there’s someone in your life with a problem, pick up that phone and call 1-888-NYC-WELL so we can get the help that you need,” de Blasio said when asked at his daily press briefing about what ThriveNYC was doing to stop incidents like the one Friday on the N/Q/R platform in Times Square.
Police took Joshua Diaz, 30, into custody later Friday because he matched the description of the suspect wanted for the unprovoked attack on the 28-year-old New Jersey woman. She survived the assault with minor injuries. Diaz was admitted to Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx for a psychiatric evaluation, according to a source.
Diaz has been arrested 30 times including for burglary, assault, resisting arrest and criminal trespass. Most recently he was collared for bizarre behavior — sitting in the cars of strangers in Queens in September.
Despite being asked about it specifically, de Blasio did not address the shoving incident, and instead boasted that there’s been “a huge uptick in the amount of New Yorkers turning to Thrive across the spectrum” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it’s true that the hotline saw a 17 percent surge in calls at the height of the city’s coronavirus crisis — it still missed its annual target to actually connect people to services.
When asked about that short-coming as tallied by his office, de Blasio said he wasn’t aware of it.
“I don’t have that part of the Mayor’s Management Report in front of me to speak to it specifically,” he said, adding, “There’s a huge number of examples of people getting connected to services effectively.”
“Where for some reason it doesn’t happen, we need to drill down and figure out why not and go back and do our best to fix that. Sometimes it’s obviously hard to maintain the connection to people and make them willing to receive services, but overall what we’re seeing is a lot of outreach from New Yorkers especially during the pandemic and a lot of people being connected to services,” de Blasio said.
The mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, launched ThriveNYC in 2015. The costly program has struggled to show outcomes for improving the problems of the mentally ill across the city.
A spokeswoman for ThriveNYC did not immediately return a message about how the program’s helping the seriously mentally ill beyond the hotline and if its workers had ever encountered Diaz.
De Blasio responded to New York City Transit Authority president Sarah Feinberg’s call for more cops to police the subways after the attack by punting to the NYPD.
“If we see additional needs in the subway, the NYPD is always ready to make those adjustments. I’ll leave that to [Police] Commissioner Shea to speak about that specifically, de Blasio said.
Reps for the NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
The transit system has seen an increase in crime, including rape and murder, despite a sharp drop in ridership.
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