Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio named Lilliam Barrios-Paoli as his deputy mayor of Health and Human Services Thursday. Barrios-Paoli, who is the city's current commissioner of aging, said fighting homelessness is at the top of her to-do list. Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Lilliam Barrios-Paoli says she believes in Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's campaign message, that the gap between the rich and the poor in New York is growing ever wider.
“I totally believe that we are living a tale of two cities. No question about it,” said Barrios-Paoli.
Now, de Blasio is looking to Barrios-Paoli to help him close that gap. He says he wants her to fight homelessness by getting New Yorkers stable housing. She is being directed to expand community health centers and cut red tape so people in need have an easier time getting services.
“I have known Lilliam for many years,” de Blasio said. “I think very few people in this city have a stronger understanding of what the New York City government is capable of doing to help its people.”
She has led five city agencies over the years, including the city's social services agency, the Human Resources Administration. She was ousted from that position by her then-boss, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in 1997. Earlier that year she got in trouble for speaking out against the administration. She is known for being candid.
“I have 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. Not just an afterthought,” she said.
De Blasio used the announcement to highlight the city's growing homeless population. There are more than 50,000 homeless people in city shelters on any given night, including more than 20,000 homeless children.
The plight of one, Dasani, is being chronicled by The New York Times.
“We’re not going to let down Dasani or any young woman or any young man like her,” said de Blasio said.
Barrios-Paoli is de Blasio's fifth appointment to his administration. He has many more to go. But we are not expecting any new additions until next week.
He previously announced William Bratton as police commissioner and Anthony Shorris as his first deputy mayor.
De Blasio is heading down to Washington D.C. on Friday where he is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama and other newly elected mayors from around the country.
A White House official said that Obama will meet with a group of newly elected mayors from around the country to talk about joint efforts to create jobs and opportunities for middle-class families.
De Blasio said that he sees the president as a strong ally on a number of fronts.