Governor Pataki Is Shocked, Shocked...
In the spring of 1995, early in his first term, Governor
George Pataki pointed out to the press that New York was first
among the states in spending for the mentally ill. He did not
say it in the spirit of a man who considered this an admirable
thing--proof that his state was, at least in this respect, the
most civilized in the nation. Instead, he was soliciting
support for a plan to reduce the number of beds for the
mentally ill, and to cut spending on community programs for
In 1996, a schizophrenic man named Andrew Goldman began a
string of attacks on medical personnel, roommates, and
Meanwhile Mr. Pataki was following through by making deep cuts
in mental health services, which created huge waiting lists
for long-term care and supervised housing. Mr. Goldman was on
many of those lists. He kept trying to get help, and he kept
getting turned away. Nor could he check himself into state
mental hospitals, although he tried. Mr. Pataki was in the
middle of a drive to empty out state hospitals and dump their
patients into the programs and facilities whose funding he was
cutting back so severely. By then the two major providers of
housing for the mentally ill in New York City were the
homeless shelters and Rikers Island, the city jail.
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and John Cardinal OConnor
personally asked the governor to help finance more beds for
the mentally ill. Some 500 protesters held a rally outside
City Hall, chanting, Pataki, where are you? Mr. Pataki
finally agreed to provide about a hundred new beds a year for
five years. To put this figure in proportion, about 15,000
mentally ill prisoners a year pass through Rikers Island.
Another 3,000 or so of those in homeless shelters are also
On January 3 of 1999, Mr. Goldstein pushed a 32-year-old
woman named Kendra Webdale under the wheels of the N train as
it pulled into the 23rd Street and Broadway stop.
On November 9, 1999, Mr. Pakati announced that he would stop pushing
mentally ill patients out of state hospitals for a whole year.
The governor was not only upset by the Goldstein case, but
shocked. Here is what he said:
I will tell you that I am personally shocked when something
like this happens. Whenever there is an incident like this, I
take a look and think, My goodness, what can we as a
people--what can I as a governor--do to protect individuals from
themselves and to protect us as a society?
Miss Kendale is dead. Mr. Goldstein hopes the courts will
eventually send him to a psychiatric hospital rather than to
prison for life. Mr. Pataki hopes George W. Bush will sentence
him to the Vice Presidency. My goodness.