On Friday, February 27, New York City Councilmember Brad Lander hosted a meeting for local social service providers with New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks.
The reception was co-sponsored by Boro Park JCC and Hamaspik and was held on the premises of Hamaspik of Kings County’s Borough Park complex at the corner of 41st St. and 14th Ave.
Commissioner Banks was joined by Deputy Commissioner David Neustadt, and about two dozen community leaders including representatives from a number of JCC’s, Met Council, Ohel, Bina, Nachas, Central Jewish Council, Hamaspik and other social service providers, who deal with the agency on a daily basis.
HRA is responsible for administering many important services including cash assistance energy assistance, health Insurance signups, food stamps and much more.
Both in his opening remarks and in a lively question and answer period that followed, the Commissioner showed a first-hand appreciation of the need for services from the recipients’ perspective, having argued many of their cases in his previous position as Attorney in Chief of the Legal Aid Society.
“Customer-friendly” was a key phrase heard in Banks’ talk, touching as it did on increasing HRA usage of technology and automation to speed up application processes, eliminate bureaucracy and paperwork, and otherwise streamline the entire agency and its $9 billion annual budget. He also pledges to provide designated contact people for agencies to be in touch with.
“I think people were very impressed that he’s willing to make changes necessary,” said Joel Freund, Executive Director of Hamaspik Kings, who offered welcoming remarks to the reception. Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Executive Director of the Boro Park JCC, who moderated the event, added that he was “most reassured that increased live-person contacts will be available at HRA” and that it will “make a discernible difference” in dealing with the agency.