Are you relatively new to this bustling metropolis? Don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York once upon a time, except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and still resides there. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.

This special Monday edition comes from someone who reads the NY Post:

Dear Native New Yorker,

I live on the Upper West Side and of late I've noticed an increase in vagrants along Broadway, particularly sleeping in some of the empty storefronts and hanging out on the benches along the median. The New York Post has been covering this really hard, and I want to know where Gothamist stands—are you ignoring the story because you're in Bill de Blasio's pocket or what?


Pissed Off on the Upper West Side

Dear Pissed Off,

I have noticed the New York Post beating the doomsday drum extra hard of late. It looks like they're vying for a Pulitzer on their Peeing Homeless Guy beat!

While I do appreciate the dedication and hours they've put in on the story (even capturing this poor dude mid-stream!), the Post is wrong on the facts about New York City homelessness and wrong on the causes of New York City homelessness. They're not just ignorant—they're willfully ignorant for political reasons that I will explain, and so Gothamist will not be following their lead here.

The main cause of the recent spike in vagrants in your neighborhood is not Bill de Blasio's homeless policy. It's the weather. New York's street homeless prefer to sleep outside during the summer, rather than in our subways or homeless shelters, which they find crowded, noisy, and dangerous. This is why San Francisco and Los Angeles have even more visible homeless problems than we do—our winters temporarily force many of our homeless people off the streets each year.

A second cause of the homeless crisis in your neighborhood is the New York real estate bubble, which has made shelter unaffordable to ever growing numbers of New Yorkers. At the same time, rapacious commercial landlords, sensing the opportunity for boom-time rents from national tenants like banks, are willing to keep their storefronts empty for longer periods—providing the local homeless population a more visible place to crash.

The real estate bubble and its attached homeless problem began during the Bloomberg Administration. When he came into office in 2002, we had about 25,000 people homeless. When he left in late 2013, these numbers had more than doubled to more than 53,000. Now obviously Bloomberg didn't cause the real estate bubble, but his homeless policies did exacerbate its effects: he favored for-profit short-term shelters over long-term permanent housing and eliminated priority use of federal funds for homeless families, for example.

The homeless numbers during the first 18 months of de Blasio administration have not improved. In fact, they've increased about 10%-mainly due to our city's ever-increasing rents—but laying total responsibility for your neighborhood's vagrancy problem at his feet is simply unfair. (If you count only unsheltered homeless on the street, the numbers have actually decreased 5% since de Blasio took office, according to the Department of Homeless Services.) De Blasio has reversed a number of Bloomberg's housing policies, increased funding for homeless and mental health services, and pushed for new affordable housing in the city. It's way too soon to know how any of that will turn out, but you can't say he's ignoring the problem.

So why does the New York Post persist? Politics. They're owned by a conservative billionaire who detests our leftist mayor, particularly his efforts (so far blocked by Governor Cuomo) to increase taxes on the rich. Rupert Murdoch knows that the only way a Democratic incumbent mayor is going to lose a re-election in New York City is if the local populace feels unsafe. Thus, the need for wall-to-wall coverage of violent crime (which is down 6.42% overall this year, despite a small but terrible increase of 15 murders and 26 rapes).

Don't believe me? Listen to NY Post columnist John Podhoretz, who doesn't bother to disguise his glee as he explicitly spells out the strategy:

I’m not offering an explanation for why this has happened. I’m only describing a change in mood.

And if I were Bill de Blasio looking ahead to 2017, I’d take this very seriously... if [the voters] feel two years from now as though the city is a worse place to live than it was when he took office, the 73 percent of the city’s eligible voters who didn’t vote for de Blasio in 2013 will have no difficulty sending the moving truck to Gracie Mansion and shipping him right back to Park Slope.

Note the "I'm not offering an explanation part"—of course he can't, because that would require some contemplation of the failures of the previous Republican mayoralty, the undesirable effects of the real estate bubble, a state government dominated by the interests of developers and the very rich, etc, etc, etc.

If you are really bothered by the homelessness you see around you here in New York, you need to think about these root causes and do something about them, say by encouraging people to vote for politicians trying to fix things, or by donating to charities who support the homeless. That's what we try to do here at Gothamist—it may not be much, but it beats exploiting the homeless to sell some newspapers and advance a conservative oligarch's political goals.

N.B. If you are particularly concerned about the unsheltered homeless on the street (about 3000-5000 out of the approximately 60,000 homeless people in NYC; the rest are mainly families in shelters and temporary housing), support "housing first" solutions that get these guys off the street and into treatment. I discussed them in a couple of previous columns.