316 West 95th Street. Photo by Aaron Biller.

A company run by the city’s former Commissioner of Homeless Services is planning to put homeless shelters into two buildings on West 95th Street, but nearby residents are fighting to keep the shelters out. Using a rule that allows emergency shelters to be placed in communities without a full public review, Housing Solutions USA is placing 200 families in buildings at 316 West 95th Street and 330 West 95th Street, according to a letter sent to Community Board 7 last week.

(Updated below with comments from Gale Brewer)

The Department of Homeless Services has already approved the proposal and the families may arrive at any moment, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal tells us. “They tend to bus people in around midnight. That’s what they’ve done in the past,” she said in an interview.

The two buildings are now SRO’s and were forced in 2007 to stop renting rooms to tourists illegally. Turning an SRO into a homeless shelter is a very lucrative proposition. Landlords and organizations can make much more money renting rooms to homeless families than to poor people who are not part of the city social services system, because the city pays a much higher rent. In fact, Rosenthal said the city will pay $111 per day for each family (defined as two adults), which works out to more than $3,300 a month. That’s for a very small room without its own bathroom or kitchen.

“Think about the good we could do putting all that money into finding actual affordable housing for these families,” Rosenthal said. “This wastes scarce dollars on transitional housing. Our whole goal should be to move homeless people into permanent housing.”

The lack of notice to the community is grating a lot of people. DHS has met with some elected officials but hasn’t been forthcoming about when the homeless people will be placed in the building.

“As far as I can tell not a single person involved in the community is anything less than outraged by the proposal,” Nick Prigo, a community board member and Democratic district leader, told us. The city had pledged to stop placing shelters on the Upper West Side, but appears to be backing off that pledge, said Prigo.

Hess told community leaders that the facility will only be open a year, but that fact isn’t mentioned in the letter he sent to the community board. Rosenthal says that the facility doesn’t have safety measures like video surveillance cameras, or security guards.

Aaron Biller, of the nonprofit group Neighborhood in the Nineties, issued a call to action, asking people to contact their elected representatives and warning that the West 90’s has become “satiated” with facilities for people with special needs. And the oversight and services for people in those facilities has often been abysmal, putting them and local residents in danger.

“Anyone who recalls the disaster of the poorly-run Apple shelter, opened on 27 July 2006 and closed nine months later, after N90s, CB7 leadership and elected officials, created enormous public pressure, knows what mayhem, criminal danger this population poses for the immediate blocks and greater neighborhood,” he wrote.

Just one week ago, the manager of an HIV shelter on 95th Street was killed by a resident.

Biller is also convinced that Housing Solutions chose to notify the Community Board in July because many people are away on vacation and it was likely to cause less of an uproar. He says that this isn’t a NIMBY issue, given the concentration of shelters in the area:

“To those who raise NIMBY or racist issues, rest assured that a view of the Borough President’s map, or the study by Neighborhood In The Nineties conducted in 2007, documents that our neighborhood already holds among the highest concentration of problem populations of any city neighborhood—21% of Manhattan’s supportive housing units are on the Upper West Side (CB7), most above 86th Street…We have no choice but to win this one—the future of our neighborhood is in the balance.”

Biller also provided a list of facilities that are already in the West 90’s:

Currently, three City agencies—HPD, DHS and HRA are housing nearby more than a thousand special needs residents in such properties as:

Housing Solutions, which recently merged with Bronx-based homeless service organization Aguila Inc., referred us to the Department of Homeless Services when asked to comment. Former DHS Commissioner Robert Hess is the company’s CEO and Chairman.

The DHS hasn’t responded to our questions.

Community Board 7 is “deeply concerned by many aspects of the timing and substance of the proposal, and are working with our elected officials to understand its ramifications and to take appropriate action,” Chairman Mark Diller wrote to us. We haven’t heard back yet from other elected officials but will update when we do.

Update: Brewer, Rosenthal, Diller and Borough President Scott Stringer sent a letter to DHS in opposition to the plan, calling on the agency to “immediately suspend all efforts to refer any clients to the buildings.” Said Brewer:

“The plan is not conducive to the 71 existing residents who live in the buildings, nor to the neighborhood.  I support renting the units to people who would be our neighbors on a permanent basis and would have a stake in the community.  Transitional housing does not provide adequate, affordable housing for anyone, and I do not support this DHS proposal.”

Rosenthal said that the plan of action for now is to keep meeting with Hess and DHS to try to stop the plan. Presumably, the more public pressure against the shelters, the more likely they won’t come to fruition.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 25 comments | permalink
    1. Mike212 UWS says:

      For the record Upper West Siders – who co-sponsored the bill that forced owners of SRO hotels from not using them as affordable tourist hotels? YOUR representatives LINDA ROSENTHAL and GAYLE BREWER.

      They caused this.

      • John de Clef Piñeiro says:

        There seems to be an agenda-driven misdirection of anger here.

        This tack merely blames someone else for the highhanded and unilateral decisions and acts of the DHS and Mayor Bloomberg.

        Let’s correctly direct our anger and outrage at the right targets: the Mayor and his administration at

        • John de Clef Piñeiro says:

          Here’s the emailed letter that I just sent to the Mayor:

          The upper west side in the 90s already seems saturated with facilities for a special needs population.

          Now the your DHS proposes to further add to the economic, social and community burdens that already accompany providing for those with special needs by placing 200 families in buildings at 316 West 95th Street and 330 West 95th Street, according to a letter sent to Community Board 7 last week.

          Here’s a listing of special needs facilities now located on the upper west side in the 90s:

          Currently, three City agencies—HPD, DHS and HRA are housing nearby more than a thousand special needs residents in such properties as:

          •The Narragansett, on Broadway between 93rd and 94th Streets HRA
          •The Senate, 92nd Street and Broadway HRA
          •Camden Hotel, 206 West 95th –ranked the 24th Precinct’s 2nd most dangerous building—the scene of a murder by a City Placement tenant on Friday – HRA
          •306 and 308 West 94th Street provide emergency homeless shelter HRA
          •311 West 94th Street is a Section 8 with some problem residents
          •200 West 94th Street houses some serious mental hygiene cases HPD
          •Yale/Rose on 300 block West 97 HDS/HPD
          •Royal York, 200 block West 97th, adjacent to The Columbia HRA
          •Huntersmoon, Broadway.99th St HRA (Lantern)
          •Frant Broadway/101 DH

          Enough is enough, Mr. Bloomberg. There’s a two-building mansion on East 79th street that surely must have some vacant space to house the needy.

          Yours for Government that Works for the People,

        • mike212 UWS says:

          Thank you John.

          Yes, I cannot understand why the City of New York via DHS and the Mayor are forcing yet more burdens on our community. We all know that these mega shelters/sro do not work (for the residents or the community). Read the links to the reports from 1977. I am old enough to tell you that it is true, and we do not want a return to those days.

          However, the blame DOES lie with Brewer and Rosenthal. They clearly had an agenda to change the law. I recall Brewer sniffing that she did not want to share the sidewalks with backpackers (!) I do not understand why they pushed for this. My only reasoning is that it is an out of touch with reality extreme left wing that “homeless” are entitled to free housing on the Upper West Side, while New Yorkers who work hard (especially the young strivers) have been priced out. What kind of public policy is that? Reward the bottom, punish everyone else?

    2. This is a sneaky way of dealing with downgrading the neighborhood. W95th Street should not have two buildings on the same block filled this way. We will fight until we make it so uncomfortable they will move out of their own will.

    3. Down with Linda Rosenthal and Gale Brewer. We will thwart any chance of Brewer becoming Borough President so she can wreak more havoc on the already crowded with homeless W 90s. We who supported these two women will fight to end their political life.

      • OutragedWestSider says:

        Community we must unite. 200 MORE vagrants, drug addicts and prostitutes in our neighbhorhood, we have fought so hard to clean up.

        Contact Gale and Linda and tell her to sponsor a bill to allow SROs to rent to tourists.. Her plan is destroying our community.
        District Office Address
        563 Columbus Ave
        (at the corner of 87th St.)
        New York, New York 10024

        District Office Phone
        (212) 873-0282

        District Office Fax
        (212) 873-0279

        Legislative Office Address
        City Hall Office
        250 Broadway
        Suite 1744
        New York, NY 10007

        Legislative Office Phone
        (212) 788-6975

        Linda Rosenthal

        District Office
        230 West 72nd Street
        Suite 2F
        New York, NY 10023

    4. MM says:

      I suggest we pass out flyers against Scott Stringer, Linda Rosenthal and/or Gale Brewer at the subway station at West 96th Street and that we demand again from them that they address this issue. The 96th St subway station is one of the highest voter turnouts in the city. These politicians need our votes, they turn out election time, but they have acted completely against the best interests of the neighborhood and they are personally responsible for the damage to our community.

      Take a look at page 42 (Appendix 4) of the attached.,. We are going back to the 70s on the UWS thanx to Gale, Scott and Linda.

      Just Friday,. a man was murdered on West 95th st Between Broadway and Amsterdam at 12:30 in the afternoon.- stabbed by one of these crazies from one of these shelters. I I also suggest that every synagogue on Manhattan’s UWS and school speak out against our local elected officials and demand protection for our neighborhood. They have completely messed us up, it was completely forseeable – I personally warned Linda about this – and now its happening.

      They have been completely incompetent in this area and have served us poorly.
      Scott actually has financial supporters for his campaign in our shuls and this will be forwarded to them.

      They promised action last year at a meeting we had, they have done nothing, and matters are worse.

    5. Jam says:

      Linda, you hypocrite. We told you this would happen when you supported the bill to shut down the hotels. Now suddenly you’re appalled. Do something, save our homes!

      • Mike212 UWS says:

        Agreed Jam.

        With one correction: Linda Rosenthal did not “support” the bill.

        She SPONSORED it.

        How she or her spin doctors can distance themselves from this obvious result, is beyond rational reasoning.

    6. Casey says:

      I am a proud resident of NYC transplanted from Florida about four years ago. Last week, I moved to West 95th St to a beautiful, affordable apartment. I was informed today by a sign posted in my elevator that you are opening two (2) homeless shelters right next door to my new apartment! 316 and 330 West 95th St. I am writing in protest of this movement as there is a school on the corner of the block. It is reported that there will be no security or cameras at the shelter. This is unsafe and makes people who actually pay for their housing incredible uneasy. The least you could do to ensure the safety of UWS children and citizens is to place 24hr security in these shelters. The community is outraged and does not deserve to have information like this hidden.

    7. Crawford says:

      Upper West Siders wanted this, remember?

      They made it illegal for tourist hotels to operate in these buildings. The only other legal and financially viable use is shelter housing. They can’t be renovated into normal rentals per SRO law.

      • Jamal P. says:

        The world, city, UWS has changed since the 1970s.

        Let these buildings become Class A apartments.

        There is no reason to keep them SROs. This is a family area, and yes it is for the better now.

        The City has made it impossible to convert them to new uses. ask any landlord about getting a “Certificate of non harrassment” from the tenants. Extremely hard to execute in the real world. The government does not understand how the real world works. This is not what is best for the Community of today.

    8. Rebecca says:

      CBS news just reported a stabbing “inside an apartment building” on Broadway between 93rd and 94th Streets. (They didn’t say, but I’m guessing The Narragansett?) Apparently the body of the victim (a 56-year-old man) was found yesterday. Is this connected to the incident a few days ago at the Camden Hotel?

    9. Ricky says:

      the Upper West Side has similar demographics as the Upper East Side. As yourself, how many SROs do they have?
      I read that article posted above – what an eye opener. Clearly, everyone acknowledged that SROs are a blight on neighborhoods and the residents themselves. Somehow the politicians changed the rules and and stopped landlords from converting their own properties into better uses. I recall they blamed SRO conversions on increased homelessness, as oppossed to other government policies and society as a whole that caused – not to mention personal choices and responsbility. I noted most of the SROs named in the village and midtown are long gone. Why are we still plagued by these blights.

      Part of the problem is the misguided elected officials from the UWS. The UES silk stocking politicians would never force this on their own community. Especially since we already house thousands of these people already.

      Well, this former radical says enough is enough.

    10. Wyatt says:

      Rosenthal and Brewer can write all the letters they want to DHR and other city agencies.

      But the fact remains that we are in this situation due directly to their actions.
      The law they passed got my support when it was proposed because it was outlawed renting residential apartments as hotel rooms. No mention was given to the hidden agenda of halting SRO hotels from renting by the night. That makes no sense as they are hotels after all. I welcomed the upgrades and changes to the SROs in the area. Although would be nice if they just became apartment buildings. This is out of control. and needs to be changed. The city should withdraw this law and let the SROs rent to tourists. I have no problem with that and neither to my neighhors. We are very upset with Rosenthal and Brewer and for what they have created.

    11. Steph says:

      I can certainly understand the outrage and uncertainty. It could easily become an issue of safety for residents who have strangers coming into their building. What the city has to do is take after tribeca and build shelters in lieu of anything else. A friend sent me this article about the construction of a shelter in the neighborhood and I think we need to take after this

      • wyatt says:

        Steph….enough with the bleeding hearts…you are saying you want another shelter , just like they have in Tribeca (really chinatown).. Give me a break!!! We have enough social services here already. Read today’s Daily News regarding families coming directly from the airport to demand housing in New york city and getting it because we are the only ones in the United States with a Right to Housing .. for anyone and everyone . and who pays for it? you and I , the taxpayers. enough is enough.

        and also, “letter” aside from brewer and rosenthal , this is a done deal, behind closed doors. They are just trying to cover their tracks. this is all their fault. But also the blame lies with those like you who think we owe everyone all the things that the rest of us work for. sorry, NO.

    12. jim says:

      just desserts – enjoy the collapse of the real estate market on 95th. Spend 2 mil on a 3 BR lately?

    13. Yes homeless people are a serious issue confronting the city, and it is an issue that will not just ” go away” . Until the city comes up with a long term solution, we wil be talking about this same subject 5-7 years from now

    14. Janette says:

      I am in the same position. I live in an apt. building that required proof of employment and pay stubs to move in cause they only wanted working people and in the past two months all these shelter people have moved in to empty apts. Unacceptable.

    15. Dorie Kincaid says:

      316 West 95th Street in the Childhood home of Pioneer of Women in Technology, and USN Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace”. It is sad to see there is no mention of this anywhere. That building should be listed on the historic register.

    16. Camden only hiv tenant . the 95th street sleaze bag . says:

      As a former tenant of one of the “shelters ” which are actualy L.L.C. privately owned rent stabilized s.r.o.s . These poor less fortionate formerly homeless tenants most ill and legally stabilized tenants in good standing are shuffled around like cattle at their own expense. simultaneously the owners of these LLC stockpile a generous fortune . That Most of the homeless who lived in my particular building in my opinion had more temerity the whole brewer Rosenthief clann click staff district sux group as a whole. you don’t need a homeless person to tell you you can’t buy class but safe assumtion these people are certainly going to try to!

    17. Todd Alexander Balzano says:

      August 2015
      the camden reborn
      theres no problems at the camden anymore.
      I am currently the president of the tenant association committee at the camden on west 95 th street . (I won that honer with unanimous votes three years running )
      I have literally single handedly transformed the building to what was the precincts worst on record to a residence with a perfect pristine record , virtually zero rounds discharged from non-departmental Weaponry and premier up and coming future place to live on the upper west side , just fifty yards from the 96 th st. Train hub.