A Manhattan homeless shelter overseen by Gov. Cuomo’s sister has been repeatedly cited for deteriorating safety and health conditions — culminating last year with the death of an infant, records show.
The Hamilton Family Residence in upper Manhattan, which houses 155 families headed by single mothers, is run by HELP USA, a nonprofit group founded by Andrew Cuomo in the 1980s. His sister Maria Cuomo Cole chairs the group’s board.
Beginning in 2013, the shelter — which currently has a $23 million contract with the city — has repeatedly received low marks from the city for health and safety issues, including damaged walls, poor housekeeping and crib-related problems, city records show.
A key issue has been potentially dangerous conditions for children, since the city-funded shelter serves only families with kids.
The low point came on Feb. 19, 2014, when a 3-month-old girl was rushed from the shelter to Harlem Hospital in cardiac arrest.
OK, now imagine this shelter was part of the vaunted APPR teacher evaluation plan Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to impose on teachers across the state, with unannounced evaluations being conducted by outside observers, and this is what they found:
The infant’s death occurred after HELP’s performance ratings had slipped, records show.
The city monitors these programs and issues ratings on a regular basis. The HELP contract that covers Hamilton was rated “good” in overall performance in 2009, but dropped to “fair” by 2013 and continued at “fair” through June. It’s “quality of programs” ratings dropped to “poor” in 2013 but rose to “fair” as of last year.
Problems are spelled out in regular city inspections, examining physical conditions and the quality of services to families.
During several announced visits in April 2013, homeless services inspectors randomly selected 15 apartments and found health and safety problems in each one.
That included missing child-proof electrical outlets in several units, roaches in one kitchen sink, fruit flies in another, a toilet that didn’t flush, walls with holes, and lots of busted floor tiles, records show.
In his report, the inspector warned HELP that apartment inspections “must be conducted weekly for units in a deplorable manner.”
He also emphasized the need for more “supervisory oversight” to ensure timely repairs and adoption of a plan of action to “address all major physical deficiencies found.”
The inspector noted that case files were a mess, and when inspectors returned six months later for an unannounced visit, they found “no observable improvement with the quality of the case files.”
HELP is on notice to improve the Hamilton Family Residence after several announced visits in 2013 - but conditions actually deteriorate:
By April 2014, it was worse. During six visits, DHS Inspector Pierre found problems throughout, including 45 “crib-related issues,” 35 units with damaged walls, 21 units with sinks not securely fastened to walls, 11 units with “problems with vermin (roaches and flies),” and 10 units with “evidence of mold” in bathroom walls and ceilings.
Pierre said the case files had gotten even worse, writing, “The social service delivery appeared to be regressing.”
“All throughout this unit inspection, damaged walls and ceilings, poor housekeeping and crib-related deficiencies were frequently found,” he wrote. ”There is a lack of sense of urgency from facility staff to ensure that these issues are addressed.”
HELP then missed its July 13 deadline to submit a “corrective report” explaining how they would address the problems. It arrived a month later, and was rejected. Finally on Sept. 12, DHS approved HELP’s plan.
Again I ask you to imagine Hamilton Family Residence were a school in Buffalo, Rochester or New York City - what rhetoric would we hear out of Cuomo about the "failure" of this kind of school (and rightfully so!)
But instead this is a homeless shelter run by HELP USA, a non-profit Andrew Cuomo himself started and currently overseen by his sister.
What rhetoric do we hear out of Cuomo about the "failure" of HELP?
Here is a shelter that received poor evaluation ratings in 2013 that got worse in 2014, with the DHS inspector writing that “The social service delivery appeared to be regressing.”
The shelter is cited for vermin, mold, damaged walls, sinks not properly fastened to the walls and crib-related issues.
If anything calls for state intervention (like Cuomo is calling for with "failing" schools and "failing" school districts), it's the Hamilton Family Residence run by HELP USA, the Cuomo-run non-profit.
I won't hold my breath waiting for a broadside from Cuomo himself or any of his flying monkey minions on this.
As a side note, Maria Cuomo Cole is married to famed designer, sweatshop overseer and teacher-basher, Kenneth Cole.
You can see Cole's record on safety issues here.