“Yo, what’s up, man?” Sliwa said to the man, named Jamal, who approached Sliwa’s press conference outside Penn Station on Wednesday.
The man, who was shirtless, told Sliwa he had lived in the area for six years and been hospitalized “a lot of times” and is supposed to be on medication.
“Would you rather be somewhere else than Penn Station,” Sliwa asked Jamal, after telling a police officer who tried to intervene that he had the situation handled.
Jamal, who Sliwa told Fox News he has known for six years, then began to break down and cry.
“I just don’t want to take advantage of you guys,” Jamal said while crying.
“You’re not taking advantage. This is our responsibility. I’m running for mayor. I’m gonna make sure that you and your other friends out here are taken care of, okay,?” Sliwa told him before asking if he wanted to stand with the group at the campaign event.
Sliwa posted the highly emotional video to Twitter and said that there needs to be “more compassion in politics.”
“We need to listen to each other more. That’s how we improve,” he captioned the tweet.
Sliwa told Fox News on Saturday that New Yorkers dealing with mental and emotional problems on the streets of the city have been abandoned by Democratic leaders, and said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ThriveNYC program has not helped the New Yorkers it said it set out to assist.
ThriveNYC, spearheaded by first lady Chirlane McCray, has repeatedly been criticized, including in 2019 by the New York Post’s editorial board, which called it “an absolute waste of public resources.” De Blasio has since created the Office of Community Mental Health earlier this year, which has nearly $320 million in funding under the spending plan for fiscal 2022.
Meanwhile, Sliwa said his opponent in the mayoral race, Eric Adams, isn’t offering sound solutions.
“When asked what [Adams] would do about the growing mental health issue in the streets, basically …. he talked about holistic, homeopathic remedies,” Sliwa said.
“This requires hands-on” action, he said. “These men and women need to be taken in for a psychiatric evaluation.”
He noted that under both former New York City Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, there weren’t nearly the amount of people struggling with mental illness on the streets, “because they had homeless and emotionally disturbed person outreach work, working under the police department.”
“These were men and women, professionally trained as police officers in uniform who would go out and would bring these people either to a shelter, or to a mental health hospital.”
But under de Blasio, he said, the program was done away with and the officers reassigned when the mayor defunded the police department by $1 billion.
“Now you have the emotionally disturbed persons living in subways, roaming the streets without their medicines. Without any mental health care, and it’s a growing problem,” he said.
The video Sliwa posted on Thursday, which has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, is meanwhile receiving overwhelmingly positive reactions on social media.
The New York City mayoral election is scheduled for Nov. 2, 2021.