But the mayoral hopeful did not mention the free-food program’s numerous failures.
“When I was responsible for emergency food, there was no request for [citizenship] documentation. All you had to do was say you were COVID-impacted, and you couldn’t go out, and we delivered you food,” she said at Wednesday night’s debate.
As the city prepared for the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio in March 2020 named Garcia “food czar,” in order to ensure a steady supply of food deliveries to indigent New Yorkers.
One Taxi & Limousine Commission-licensed driver who made food runs during the pandemic said the boxes he was assigned to deliver contained “no substantive food.”
“It was basically high-fructose corn syrup snacks,” he told The Post, describing what he found in a surplus box he opened once. “I offered it to a homeless woman, who turned it down.”
The driver also said morning pickups were “very disorganized.” Hours-long unpaid waits sometimes didn’t lead to work, and the city didn’t always have enough masks for drivers, he said.
To get supplies distributed faster during the pandemic, city agencies conducted more-relaxed background checks on vendors and awarded contracts to companies they likely would not have considered normally, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The city Department of Sanitation, under Garcia, awarded an emergency $14 million no-bid contract to a convicted tax cheat’s construction firm as part of the food delivery program she oversaw as czar, according to an audit released earlier this month by the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, another candidate for mayor. The contract was to deliver food during the pandemic.
The contract was subsequently terminated because the vendor — Cariati Developers Inc. of Wallingford, Conn. — repeatedly delivered its boxes of food either late or so crushed as to be “unusable.”
Garcia campaign spokeswoman Annika Reno said in a statement: “In a state of emergency when a pandemic of unprecedented scale was sweeping the city, Kathryn stood up a program to deliver one million meals a day to New Yorkers in need.”
“Whenever the few isolated incidents with food or delivery occurred, Kathryn’s team, which pulled from multiple City agencies, immediately worked to correct the issue and fired vendors who didn’t meet the standard. If there was ever a problem, Kathryn fixed it because that’s what leaders do,” she said.
DSNY spokesman Joshua Goodman said in a statement that the agency was “extremely proud” of the program. “Complaints of spoiled food were rare (note a satisfaction rate around 95%), and when these complaints were received, DSNY took them seriously and acted immediately,” he said.