Photo: Urban Justice centre
In his nearly 30-year quest to help New York’s homeless population, the executive director of the Urban Justice centre has had to deal with four New York City mayors.And he isn’t shy about bashing the ones he felt didn’t respond to his mission of improving life for the city’s 43,000 indigent residents.
At the top of Doug Lasdon’s proverbial hit list sit former mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch.
“I would say the biggest pigs were Mayor Koch and Mayor Giuliani because they didn’t care,” Lasdon said when we stopped by the Urban Justice centre Wednesday morning.
Lasdon founded the Urban Justice centre back in 1984 because he wanted to help the city’s most helpless population.
“It was just in me. I don’t know why it was in me,” he said of his desire to make life more bearable for the city’s penniless men and women. “I just wanted to do social justice work.”
The centre, which provides legal services and advocacy for the city’s most vulnerable populations, has grown from a small operation working out of a now-burned-out building in Harlem to a 75-person organisation working out of a functional, if not sleek, office in Lower Manhattan.
The Urban Justice centre handles issues related to discrimination and oppression and claims it defends “the rights of people who are overlooked or turned away by other organisations” from sex workers to street vendors to Iraqi refugees.
Lasdon’s group recently scored an $11 million real-estate coup.
It bought an office about 15 years ago using $100,000. 10 years later, Lasdon turned around and sold the building for more than $5 million dollars and is now using those profits, as well as a grant from the city, to purchase a much larger working space.
While Lasdon clearly didn’t care for Koch, he saved his real fighting words for Giuliani, claiming the former mayor “used them [homeless people] to gain political points.”
“Giuliani needed to be in a fight all the time,” Lasdon said.
“He was very unpopular and then 9/11 happened and he became America’s mayor,” Lasdon added. “He has capitalised on 9/11 like no on else.”
Thankfully, things might be looking up for the centre. Lasdon said current Mayor Michael Bloomberg is more receptive to the centre’s goals.
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