It’s Getting Harder to Be Poor in New York

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll look at how it’s taking longer for the city to provide some critical services for vulnerable New Yorkers. We’ll also find out why the Great Lawn in Central Park has been closed for the winter — six weeks earlier than usual.

Credit…Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

In a city where it is increasingly difficult to be poor, more New Yorkers are struggling to access basic services.

China Joseph, a medical assistant in Brooklyn, above, felt that frustration last year when she tried to arrange an individualized education plan for her 3-year-old son Roman, who has autism. She waited for months for the Education Department to approve a plan, only to be told no therapists were available.

Her experience reflected a troubling reality: Some city services are taking longer under Mayor Eric Adams, from the time it takes the city to process applications for food stamps to the time it takes to make emergency heating and hot water repairs in public housing. Even police response times rose across the board.

Last week our colleagues Dana Rubinstein and Emma G. Fitzsimmons did a deep dive into the Mayor’s Management Report, a statistics-filled account of the city’s performance during Adams’s first year in City Hall. These were among their findings:

  • The city is taking significantly longer to prepare vacant public housing apartments for new residents, even as homelessness soars.

  • The city took more than twice as long to process rent-freeze requests from low-income seniors and disabled people last year, a problem that officials blame partly on budget-related staffing shortages.

  • The city processed only 40 percent of applications for food stamps within a month, the legally mandated time frame, compared with 60 percent the year before and 93 percent before the pandemic.

  • The city processed only 29 percent of applications for cash assistance on time, compared with 95 percent in 2019. The delays violate state and federal law, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled in July, and the city must figure out a path to compliance by early next year.

  • Of 65 “critical indicators” used to gauge progress in social services, slightly more than half had slipped. Roughly a third showed improvement. Seven were stable.

Jonah Allon, a spokesman for the mayor, told Dana and Emma that Adams remains focused on helping low-income New Yorkers, and pointed to areas where the administration had made gains.

Allon said in a statement that the administration had “built the most supportive housing units in a single year in the city’s history, paired more foster youth with life coaches through the Fair Futures program, increased the number of families accessing child care through vouchers by roughly 73 percent and so much more.”

He also said that “weaving a robust social safety net is a core component of Mayor Adams’s ‘Working People’s Agenda’ for a more equitable city” — and the city moved more homeless households into new housing last year. It also increased the number of summer jobs and internships available to young New Yorkers and the number of seats available in Summer Rising, a summer school and recreational program created during the pandemic.

Yet gaps in city services remain, leaving many vulnerable New Yorkers to struggle and worry.

Diana Ramos was uncertain about where she would find her next meal when the city took weeks to process her request for food stamps. When Ramos, 46, called the city’s Human Resources Administration, she waited on hold for hours. She ended up relying on food pantries and her father, who recently sent her $40 over PayPal to buy some basics.

Ramos, who was assisted by the Safety Net Project at the Urban Justice Center, said she was relieved when her food stamps arrived in late September, the day after The New York Times asked city officials to comment on her case.

“You know that I qualify for food stamps — I have no income,” she said. “Why is this so hard?”

Education advocates say that thousands of preschoolers with disabilities are, like Roman, missing out on therapy to which they are legally entitled. It is a longstanding problem made worse by the pandemic, and advocates have called on the mayor to provide $50 million in additional funding, to hire therapists and evaluators directly instead of relying on contractors, and to pay therapists more competitive rates.

Roman is now enrolled in a school that offers services like speech therapy and is communicating with her more easily. But his mother remains disappointed that he lost months of critical help.

“It felt like I was basically left to be on my own,” she said. “It was a very trying and very exhausting process.”


Enjoy a sunny day with temps in the 80s. At night, it will be mostly clear. The low will be 63.


In effect until Saturday (Shemini Atzeret).

The latest New York news

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Local news

  • A gag order: Donald Trump was chastised on Tuesday by the judge presiding over his civil fraud trial after the former president posted a message targeting the judge’s law clerk.

  • A baby’s death: A judge in Brooklyn overruled city concerns that a baby was being abused and allowed her to return to her parents’ care the day before she was fatally injured, according to court papers obtained by The New York Times.

  • A police robot: New York City will deploy a “fully autonomous” security robot in a subway station. Would you welcome one where you live?

Arts & Culture

  • Surveillance films: Thousands of black-and-white reels from the 1960s and ’70s that collected dust in a storage room in Police Headquarters became the focus of a video installation titled “Down the Barrel (of a Lens)” by the Brooklyn artist Kameron Neal.

  • Playing the sax: When your rehearsal space is the bank of the Hudson River, the audience is a bit unconventional.

The Great Lawn will be closed until April

Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Don’t plan to loll on a blanket on the Great Lawn in Central Park for several months, even if the weather is warm enough. The Great Lawn has been closed to the public until at least April.

It was damaged last month during the Global Citizen Festival, which drew around 30,000 concertgoers despite a rainstorm. The Central Park Conservancy, which manages the park, said the equipment used to stage the concert and the foot traffic “fully destroyed” a third of the lawn.

The closing comes six weeks earlier than usual. The Great Lawn — 12 acres of green space in the heart of the park that has accommodated crowds for everyone from Garth Brooks to the New York Philharmonic to Pope John Paul II — normally closes in mid-November for maintenance. Councilwoman Gale Brewer, whose district takes in Central Park, estimated the repairs would cost as much as $1 million, but the New York City Parks Department and the conservancy said that the damage had not been fully assessed.

Brewer asked Mayor Eric Adams in a letter on Monday to move the festival from Central Park in future years. Her letter, first reported by the local news website West Side Rag, criticized Global Citizen for going “full speed ahead despite torrential rain.”

A spokesperson for Global Citizen said in a statement that the group had worked closely with city agencies to decide whether to proceed despite the weather. It also said the group would work with the Central Park Conservancy to assess the damage and cover the costs of repairs.

Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said in a statement that the department was “confident any damages will be remedied expeditiously,” adding that it had a “positive relationship” with Global Citizen.

The festival in Central Park coincides with the United Nations General Assembly, which is held in New York in September, in hopes of pressuring world leaders “to defeat poverty, demand equity, and defend the planet,” according to Global Citizen’s website. This year’s event featured performances from Lauryn Hill, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the K-pop star Jung Kook.


Crossing Central Park

Dear Diary:

I was walking west across Central Park on a gorgeous Saturday morning in July. When I approached the drive on the park’s east side, I paused and watched the cyclists race north.

Waiting to cross, I met the eye of a man on a bike. He was wearing a bright blue jersey and no helmet. He flashed me a smile as he passed.

I continued on and paused again when I got to the drive on the west side, this time watching the cyclists speed south in a blur.

I was lost in thought and waiting for a calm moment to cross when a bicycle bell’s piercing ring snapped me out of my daze.

I looked up and saw the man in the blue jersey. He was smiling again. In the time it had taken me to stroll west, he had completed the top half of the Central Park loop on two wheels.

His smile soon became a giggle.

“It’s you!” he shouted.

“It’s you!” I replied.

— Nina Moske

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Bernard Mokam and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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