Adams fiercely defends embattled Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins

Mayor Eric Adams made an announcement at 127 Street and 135 Avenue in South Ozone Park, Queens. Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Eric Adams is nothing if not loyal to the people he surrounds himself with.

The mayor Thursday fervently defended his Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner Gary Jenkins, who is currently facing backlash over his decision to take a two-week vacation while the city’s homeless shelter system is continuing to be overwhelmed by an influx of asylum seekers.

“’I’m just blown away when people talk about live-work balance and here is a man that has been inundated, housing thousands of people that came to our city,” Adams told reporters Thursday at an unrelated press conference.

“I see Gary out with me 1-2 a.m. in the morning. I see him up at 5 a.m. in the morning, meeting buses. And he did the cardinal sin: he went on vacation with his family. I mean, that is just so unbelievable that in a time that all of us are dealing with the impact, the stress of our daily lives, I commend him for renewing himself. And coming back and doing those 12 to 13 hour days that he’s doing.”

City Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins. Friday, July 21, 2022. Photo courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

According to a published report, Jenkins – who oversees both the city Department of Homeless Services and its Human Resources Administration – skipped town last week and won’t be back in the Big Apple until Tuesday Sept. 6

He jetted off while the city’s homeless shelters continue to be overwhelmed by migrants, 7,600 since May as of Monday, from Central and South America who crossed the U.S. border and were sent here by both southern states and the federal government. The city is legally required to house those seeking shelter under its “right to shelter policy.”

Jenkins has also come under fire in recent days as DSS has continually postponed opening a new Midtown intake and service center dedicated to housing and serving asylum seekers coming to the city. It’s not clear when the facility, which DSS hoped to have open by Aug. 15, will be operational.

On top of all that, Jenkins is facing a city Department of Investigation inquiry over allegations that DSS failed to alert the mayor’s office when the agency violated the city’s right to shelter law by not housing four migrant families for a night – forcing them to sleep on the floor of the shelter system’s Bronx intake center.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins and Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro during a council Committee on General Welfare oversight hearing on Mayor Eric Adams’ handling of an influx of migrants into the city shelter system. Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2022. Photo courtesy of Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit.

Still, the mayor came to Jenkin’s defense Thursday, saying emphatically that he has no plans of firing the embattled DSS commissioner.

“I have the utmost confidence in Gary and Gary is going nowhere,” Adams said. “When I chose him, I chose him because he lived in a homeless shelter as a child. I chose him because his dedication and commitment. And I think this city, we’re at a better place because we have a compassionate leader like him.”

Adams, who’s faced criticism over several of his appointments since taking office in January, said he’s going to stick by the people he hires even when they’re facing intense public scrutiny.

“One thing my team knows about me: if you do something wrong, we have to correct it, but I’m not the leader that abandons you because people are yelling at you,” Adams said. “That’s just not who I am. These are great, committed public servants and I’m there for them. And I appreciate him.”