DHS TO CUT 95TH STREET HOMELESS SHELTER POPULATION IN HALF

shelter

In a deal announced Monday, local politicians and the Department of Homeless Services said they would cut the size of the homeless shelter on West 95th street near Riverside Drive in half, from 400 residents to 200.

The deal was negotiated by Comptroller Scott Stringer, Borough President Gale Brewer and the de Blasio administration. The 200 adult residents (there are no children at this shelter) are expected to be moved to other facilities, or transitioned out of the homeless system, by November 1. The full announcement is here.

Aguila, the nonprofit that operates the shelter, will get a five-year contract for the space, DHS spokeswoman Lisa Black told us. DHS was able to move families from another shelter into a better facility, freeing up space for residents from the 95th street shelter.

We’ve covered this controversial shelter since it was first installed in the summer of 2012, breaking the story that the city was planning to bus shelter residents in with scant notice to the community and no public hearing. The details that have emerged about the shelter since — landlords and a manager with a history of pushing out poor tenants, an operator with a history of “unsubstantiated bills”, a contract that pays out about $3,700 per room — alarmed the neighborhood. Nonetheless, Mayor Bloomberg dug in his heels and went to court to keep it open. As the homeless population soared to record highs and the city and state cut affordable housing subsidies, Bloomberg spent tens of millions of dollars to house homeless people in privately owned buildings like the one on 95th.

Mayor de Blasio appears to be taking a different approach, trying to add affordable housing and reduce the homeless population — “this deal indicates a willingness on the part of the Administration to re-evaluate its approach,” Stringer said. And DHS has been more responsive (they even call us back these days!); Black says they’re serious about involving the community.

But cutting the shelter in half and responding to concerns isn’t the same thing as removing it entirely, so opponents of the shelter say they will keep fighting to have it closed.

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal says she still hopes to close the shelter eventually. In the meantime, she says she’ll work to make sure homeless residents are given proper attention. “I’m working closely with DHS to ensure they take responsibility for the residents in Freedom House and provide quality rooms, social and case work services, and help finding jobs for residents as well as security for their neighbors,” she said in a statement.

Neighborhood in the Nineties, a group that sued to stop the shelter, says it will still push to have the shelter closed too. It blames Aguila and the city for adding too many shelters to the Upper West Side and failing to care for the area or the people who live there.

“During the 18 months in which they have operated this shelter, the homeless have suffered, the legacy SRO tenants in the building have suffered, and the community has suffered from a rise in drug dealing and lawlessness.

“Nor has the city honored its Fair Share obligations by adding another facility in a generous and tolerant but oversaturated neighborhood with 17 city housing facilities within 18 blocks. The shelter must be closed entirely and returned to affordable housing for the working poor.

“Neighborhood in the Nineties is emboldened by the comptroller’s decision today and will now turn up the pressure on these homelessness profiteers.”

Black says DHS is satisfied with Aguila’s efforts on 95th street, and said the operators have in some cases gone above and beyond, even putting refrigerators in tenants’ rooms shortly after they arrived, which not all shelter operators do.

NEWS | 7 comments | permalink
    1. webot says:

      half way there.

      Now close the other half completely and forever.

      Allow the landlord to convert the building to Class A apartments for all New Yorkers.

    2. G Gomez says:

      Any word on which building (316 or 330) they intend to convert from a shelter (presumably back into an SRO)? I admit I’m very much hoping it’s 316. As a neighbor, I never had any big problems when it was an SRO/hotel.

      I am extremely glad to see that our lawmakers are getting involved –and getting some traction. They (and we) are going to have to keep up the heat on Aguila to keep them living up to their responsibilities. I hope this is the beginning of some better solutions for the homeless and the neighborhood. Surely there are better ways to use all that money than to tuck it in the landlord’s pocket!

      My favorite line of this article is at the end, where DHS praises the shelter owners for going “above and beyond” because the provide mini fridges for $3600 a month. Guess what, DHS — generally $3600 will get you a whole kitchen, a bathroom, and a damn nice apartment!

    3. SG says:

      The entire shelter needs to be closed, but This is a start. Thanks N90s for the continued effort. I will say Nov seems like a long way off, these shelters were filled in far less time, and I worry that there will be lobbying and delays and talk of “emergency” toward that Nov time frame. Need to keep up the pressure and ensure Aguila, DHS and the City know we are paying close attention and we intend to hold them to their word. And that we have not forgotten about the other half of the ill-run shelter.

    4. DMH says:

      $3700 a month is just absurd. Profiteering is exactly the right word for these contracts and operators – I care deeply about the homeless, but this is outrageous.

      Hats off to everyone involved in getting a partial win here.

    5. Paul RL says:

      The agreement doesn’t nearly go far enough but I agree it’s a start. My opinion is that it should be closed entirely as there are still far too many facilities like this clustered in the West ’90’s/Lower 100’s than should be allowed. Keep the pressure on our politicians – perhaps they are listening after all!

    6. robert says:

      Two things:
      The next meeting of the 24th precinct community council is 7pm on April 16th at the precinct.

      Also this is no victory, this is a regular elected official bait and switch. I would not be at all surprised if the people moved out of these buildings are moved to the other problem shelters in the area.
      Number one of those being the Hunters Moon on the eastside of B’way between 99 and 98th street, or the shelters on 97th street just off West End. The most likely options are the shelters between Amsterdam and B’way on 95th street. Remember last year, guy that had been violently attacking other shelter resident at the one on 97th mentioned above. Did they call NYPD, no they moved him to the shelter on 95th street. A few weeks latter he did the same thing there and when the hotel manger informed him he would have leave because of his ongoing violence, he stabbed the manager to death.
      Mark my words, these folks will only be moved a very short distance. The problems of drug dealing, drug use, drinking etc will continue in the area in Riverside Park right around 97 to 95. If you see something don’t just walk on by call it in if you see something suspicious. The UWS has got to start fighting back and stop being the dumping group for the cities problems. I have lived here 48 years and I remember when the neighborhood practically begged for as many of these facilities to be located in our community because we wanted to be “liberal progressives”. That got old really quickly in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Remember Larry Hague aka the wild man of 96th street? For a while it looked like things were on the way up, but we now have a city government that is saying the right things but going back to the failed polices of the Dinkins era. Watch what happens to the shelter residents, not what the politicians say a press conferences.

    7. Bonnie Rice says:

      Paying an insane amount to landlords for these apts. What’s up with that?