Thursday, October 25, 2007

In Our Opinion...

Larry Schwartz’ Ruthless Hard-Heartedness Knows No Limit

We say God bless the clergy of Westchester who are standing up to a bureaucratic tyrant whose “My Way, Or The Highway” attitude hurts us all. Nobody in the County Executive’s Office ever explained just why it was that the Homeless Assessment Center and the Drop-In Shelter that had been functioning on the grounds of the County Airport needed to be shut down, and its 75, or so, inhabitants moved into the basement of 85 Court Street in downtown White Plains.

Of course, that basement on Court Street was essentially an overnight jail, a lockup from which those homeless, unwilling to sign up for, and attend, a variety of County-operated programs, would be sprung, returning to the streets at 6am each day, and retrieved some twelve hours later.

Whether housed at the airport, or in the basement across from the County Of-fice Building, the Drop-In accommodations were ‘no-frills’ at best, by comparison with traditional shelters; the County’s on the Valhalla Campus, Open Arms on Post Road in White Plains, or any of more than a dozen, municipal, charitable,
and clergy-operated facilities scattered mostly across the lower part of the County.

The Drop-In was, for the most part, a place to clean up, and lie down for the night without needing to subscribe to vocational, social, and medical programs. Very fundamental, it allowed homeless, single individuals, even the most difficult and disagreeable, to come in from the street, in from the cold, to relieve themselves, wash up, and lie down to sleep.

Naturally, the traditional, long-term shelters were not without their problems. In a series of investigative reports, about a year ago, The Guardian exposed drug dealing and Food Stamp scandals at the Valhalla and Open Arms installations. As a result, several known drug-dealing residents were shifted around, some thrown out.

Following a two-year struggle between White Plains Mayor Joe Delfino and the County Executive’s Office, a/k/a Larry Schwartz, there came an announcement in July that within weeks, in early August, the Drop-In Shelter on Court Street wouldbe closing permanently, and those individuals, “disproportionately too many” in his city, according to Delfino, would be needing to find other accommodations.

Once again the County Executive’s Office, Larry Schwartz, acting unilaterally, and with no regard for consequences, said “Like it or lump it.”

In all fairness, Larry had had another site in mind for the construction of a replacement drop-in shelter, the property directly behind the County Department of Public Safety Headquarters in Hawthorne, on the Saw Mill River Parkway, at Route 100; a dreadful, totally inappropriate site, given that there are no sidewalks, nor any pedestrian access to the property whatsoever. And, additionally, construction of any homeless shelter at that location would have been in violation of the existing contract between the County and the Town of Greenburgh, establishing a minimum two-mile buffer between such facilities.

Now it’s been two months since the fellow who goes around trying to intimidate senior citizens by telling them he’s “the most powerful person in Westchester,” dispossessed some 70 or so non-compliant homeless individuals from the Court Street site. And, now the air is growing chilly at night, and soon will be downright
cold. And now, that “most powerful person in Westchester” has sent forth the word to the County’s churches, synagogues, and charitable organizations that they are to offer chairs, but not cots to those displaced homeless who may show up at their door seeking shelter from the elements, and a place to rest.

We believe that the edict issued by Westchester’s most powerful figure, Larry Schwartz, is both cruel, and manipulative, but completely defining of who he is.

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