Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio came to the Lower East Side yesterday to announce his pick to lead the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS).
In a morning news conference at Henry Street Settlement, he said Gladys Carrión was being tapped to head an agency frequently under fire for failing to protect at-risk children. ACS is responsible for investigating child abuse cases, for overseeing the city’s foster care program and for administering a wide range of preventive services, including early-childhood education. Carrión was previously commissioner of the state office of Children and Family Services.
The de Blasio transition team selected the gym at Henry Street’s Youth Center (301 Henry St.) as the setting for the announcement. During his remarks, de Blasio said the the large social services non-profit, founded in 1893, “is one of the historic sites in the fight to make sure that the needs of children and families were met, that the needs of low income people were met.” Referencing his signature campaign theme, the “tale of two cities,” he acknowledged that efforts to narrow the class divide in New York are nothing new. “The ideas that came out of the settlement house movement, animated the larger progressive movement of 100 years ago,” de Blasio said, adding, “you’re here today touching a bit of history that means so much to us as we think about how to address today’s challenges.”
Before and after the news conference, Henry Street Executive Director David Garza spoke with de Blasio, as well as his wife, Chirlane McCray. In an interview later in the day, Garza told us he’s encouraged by signals from the incoming de Blasio administration that there will be a shift to preventive services, a primary focus of Henry Street’s work. ACS funds some of the non-profit’s early childhood programs. In his remarks, de Blasio noted that, historically, the city has tended to make the most progress in reforming the child welfare system after unspeakable tragedies. Garza said, “my hope is that there is a sustained focus… and that this administration can show the discipline to (devote resources to child welfare even when there’s no headline-grabbing crisis).”
The leadership at Henry Street was obviously thrilled to have been chosen by the deBlasio team. “It’s an early acknowledgement,” said Garza, “that we do the kind of work that they (the new City Hall regime) care about and we do it well.”
Among those gathered for yesterday’s event was City Council member Margaret Chin.