December 16, 2013
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Last week Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio introduced Lilliam Barrios-Paoli as the new Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. He said he selected her because she has the same values as he does to reduce the city’s growing inequality and has the experience and understanding of the city’s government agencies and non-profits that would allow her to get to work as soon as possible to start turning around the Tale of Two Cities. Watch Video of de Blasio on how to reduce inequality.
Ms. Barrios-Paoli said she’s grateful of the opportunity to serve as the next Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and is excited about working for a new administration in City Hall that makes tackling poverty a central tenet.
“I’ve spent the bulk of my career trying to work on behalf of the poor. It is incredibly exciting for me to be in an administration that really makes that a central tenet. I totally believe we are living a tale of two cities. And I think it’s our job to make it a tale of one city,” said Barrios-Paoli.
Ms. Barrio-Paoli’s experience includes leadership positions in city government and non-profit organizations. She formerly served as president and CEO of Safe Space, a social service provider for the homeless, senior vice president and CEO for Agency Services of the United Way of New York City and is currently the commissioner for the city’s Department of Aging.
Before introducing her, Mayor-elect de Blasio said that the city’s growing homelessness is just one aspect of the city’s inequality that the city can no longer ignore.
“We have the highest number of people in shelter in the city’s history, the highest number in the city-run shelter system ever and the highest number of people homeless literally since the Great Depression, and it simply can’t continue,” said de Blasio.
He pointed to the recent story published in the New York Times about an 11-yeard old girl, Desani, living in a homeless shelter in Fort Greene, bringing home the reality of homelessness in New York City in a forceful way.
“To hear the challenges this family has faced in a shelter living in a way that’s unacceptable for any New Yorker to live literally just blocks away from million-dollar brownstones…if you ever needed an illustration of what the tale of two cities is all about, there you have it,” de Blasio said.
Mr. de Blasio also noted that the new administration and city would have to call upon many resources to turn around the tale of two cities.
“We’re going to use every tool we have and then we’re going to turn to our partners in the non-profit sector, our friends in the private sector, the foundation world, we’re going to turn to Albany and Washington…to start turning around this tale of two cities,” de Blasio said.
Mr. de Blasio elaborated during a question and answer session that although policies on the local level—early childhood education, homelessness prevention, wage increases and a new paid sick leave law—might help to reduce growing homelessness and inequality, it will take a recommitment by the federal government to start allocating more funds for public services to lessen inequality.
“I’m going to begin a mission…. to slowly but surely turn the Congressional focus in particular back to investments in education, infrastructure, mass transit and housing, the kinds of things that would change New York City so fundamentally. If we had that support again, we could do so much to address inequality and over time that’s what we’ll seek to achieve,” de Blasio said.
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