Contradicting de Blasio, Cuomo says homelessness ‘not an economic problem’

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A homeless woman asks for money on a street corner in midtown Manhattan. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn't agree with Mayor Bill de Blasio's theory that the homelessness crisis in New York City is rooted in economic disruption.

"The homeless problem is not an economic problem," said Cuomo Tuesday, during an appearance in Long Island. "It's not a complicated problem. It's a human problem."

De Blasio ran for mayor vowing to curb New York City's homelessness problem. Nonetheless, the homeless population has continued to grow, something de Blasio has attributed, in part, to the difficulty that working New Yorkers have in making ends meet.

"It is much more an economic problem than it’s being acknowledged to be," said de Blasio in September.

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Cuomo is feuding with de Blasio, and he plans to make the issue of homelessness a centerpiece of his upcoming State of the State speech.

On Tuesday, he said that homelessness is less an issue of economics than of empathy.

"The homeless problem says to each of us, how do you believe we should treat one another?" said Cuomo. "It says to society, what do you do for people who are down on their luck and need help? You let them sleep on the streets? Do you put them in disgusting shelters where they would rather stay on the street than go into the shelter? Do you ignore them? What do you do?”

Cuomo said it's also a question of honesty.

“It is undeniable that the homeless problem is getting worse, especially in New York City," he said. "There are more homeless people in New York City. I believe the first step toward solving it is admitting it.”

That, too, could be read as a dig at de Blasio, whose own police commissioner criticized him for taking so long to recognize that rising homelessness was not a mere issue of perception.

"The first step is we as New Yorkers have to admit the truth: it's getting worse, it's worse than it's been in years, it's unacceptable, we will not tolerate it," Cuomo said. 

--additional reporting by Jimmy Vielkind