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October 17, 1991
Homeless Camp at City Hall

by Bob Liff and Michael Powell
A small band of protesters set up a one-tent "Dinkinsville" outside City Hall yesterday -- one day after a police sweep cleared three city-owned lots on the Lower East Side of homeless encampments. They then took it down after police calmly told them they would be arrested.

Meanwhile, inside City Hall, the politically-charged debate over homeless policy continued as Council Speaker Peter Vallone claimed that Mayor David N. Dinkins acted out of "pique" when the administration released a report that included a list of proposed sites for homeless shelters before a mayoral commission had a chance to report on the homeless policy.

"I personally believe someone in the administration decided to politicize the homeless problem, which is about as inexcusable as anything I've seen in my years of public service," Vallone said.

But Frank New, Dinkins' liaison to the council, called Vallone's continual criticism "disingenuous."

"We have done nothing but cooperate with [homeless] advocates on this," New said.

Dinkins released a five-year plan last week that included 35 potential shelter sites to house single men and women and would shut the armories currently used to house as many as 1,000 homeless a night.

George McDonald, an advocate for the homeless who is on both the council and the mayoral panels, yesterday said the mayor's report was a step forward because "we're finally addressing these issues."

Peter Smith, chairman of the Council's homeless commission who had warm words for the mayor's plan last week, yesterday offered little but criticism. He asked that the maximum number of people to be kept in the singles' shelters be lowered from 150 to no more than 100.

Vallone questioned how the city could plan for a wide range of singles' shelters when it has been unable to agree on when to close two shelters for families.

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