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City Council Vows to Override Mayor Adams Veto of Housing Voucher Bills

The veto further strains the fraught relationship between Adams and the Council, as a deadline for a city budget looms.

SHARE City Council Vows to Override Mayor Adams Veto of Housing Voucher Bills

Mayor Eric Adams signed an executive order ending the 90-day rule for people applying for CityFHEPS housing vouchers, June 16, 2023.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Mayor Eric Adams on Friday blocked four City Council bills aimed at moving people into permanent housing, saying the bills went beyond the Council’s legal authority — and drawing a swift pledge from the Council to override his veto. 

The Council bills, passed May 25, include measures to scrap a rule that requires a person to be in a homeless shelter for 90 days before being able to apply for a housing voucher, including a city Family Homelessness and Eviction Prevention Supplement (FHEPS).

Adams had eliminated that requirement through an emergency rule issued last Friday.

He’s opposed the package of bills since they were passed, saying they could cost the city billions of dollars and make it more difficult for people to find affordable housing. 

“Though the Department of Social Services has steadily increased the total number of CityFHEPS vouchers distributed, the option to provide vouchers to every person who would be eligible under the Council’s bills is far beyond what the city can provide,” the mayor wrote in a statement.

FHEPS pays some or all of the rent for families who have been evicted or are facing the loss of housing.

“The bills not only create expectations among vulnerable New Yorkers that cannot be met, they also take aim at the wrong problem,” the mayor added.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) and Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala (D-Manhattan and Bronx) listen to social services commissioner Molly Park testify at a budget hearing, March 13, 2023.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The Council, however, plans to override the veto since the bills were passed with a veto-proof majority of 41-7 — more than the necessary 35 votes to block the mayor. 

“The efforts to transition people from homeless shelters to permanent housing and prevent increasing numbers of evictions during this administration have been inadequate, straining the city’s shelter capacity under additional pressures,” Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement, calling the veto a “futile political act.”

“The mayor is only hurting the city by delaying solutions and contributing to the eviction crisis that leads more New Yorkers to lose their homes, become homeless, and join the already-high shelter population.”

The veto further strains the relationship between the City Council and the mayor’s office as they are in the final days of negotiations for next year’s budget.

The Council has 30 days to override the veto, according to a spokesperson. 

A Rare Veto

The City Charter gives the mayor the power to veto Council bills, but only if there aren’t enough “yes” votes on the original bills. 

Mayor Adams has vetoed just one other bill during his administration, a Council bill that would increase fines to non-artists living in lofts in the SoHo/NoHo artists district.

HellGate reported months later that vetoing that bill could benefit Scott Sartiano, the owner of Zero Bond, a nightclub frequented by the mayor. Sartiano and his wife bought a loft in the district last March for $3.45 million and would have faced a $15,000 fine for living in the space designed for artists, the site reported. 

Councilmembers and advocates on Friday said the quartet of housing vetoes will ultimately hurt low-income New Yorkers trying to leave the shelter system.

Christine Quinn, the former City Council speaker who is now president and CEO of the shelter provider Win, said vetoing the bills “will prolong homelessness for New Yorkers and put an unnecessary strain on the city’s budget.”

Councilmember Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) said the move was from a “delusional, power-tripping mayor that’s out of touch with what the people really need.”

And Councilmember Diana Ayala, the deputy speaker of the Council who introduced the bills, criticized the administration for its slow construction of affordable housing and staff shortages at agencies aimed at helping people find housing. 

“We continue to hear from the mayor about the strain on the city’s budget, the overflow of asylum seekers, but they’ve done little to nothing to help expedite the move out of families in shelter,” she told THE CITY.

“We’re in the abyss at this point and this requires all hands on deck.”

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