We reported a few days ago that the Department of Homeless Services has approved a plan to place homeless shelters in two buildings at 316 and 330 West 95th Street. The community had no opportunity to review the plans, and they have proven very controversial.

The 200 homeless families that are expected have not yet arrived at the shelters (as far as we know), but are expected to begin arriving shortly. On Friday, three local political leaders and Brought President Scott Stringer sent a letter to the DHS asking the agency to suspend any referrals to the shelter. The text of the letter is below:

July 27, 2012

Hon. Seth Diamond Commissioner NYC Department of Homeless Services 33 Beaver Street, 17th Floor New York, NY 10004

Re: Proposal for Emergency Shelter, 316 and 330 West 95th Street

Dear Commissioner Diamond:
We are writing to express our deep concern over the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) proposal to create a long-term transitional shelter in two buildings on West 95th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and to place as many as 200 adult families at those locations. DHS should not use its emergency powers to avoid a thorough vetting of the arrangement with the proposed service provider, nor should it use those powers to avoid any and all dialogue with the community about the proposed plans.

We therefore call on DHS to immediately suspend all efforts to refer any clients to the buildings at 316 and 330 West 95th Street and to meet with the elected officials and Community Board leaders who represent the neighborhood as soon as possible next week.

The residents of the Upper West Side understand that all neighborhoods share in the responsibility to provide adequate, affordable housing for all New Yorkers. The Upper West Side in general and this corridor of the West 90s in particular, currently provides shelter to the homeless and other vulnerable populations through a variety of facilities. These buildings collectively serve thousands of people.

However, using emergency powers to allow facilities such as 316 and 330 West 95th Street to be used as shelters without the vetting and review required by an open-ended request for proposal (RFP) is highly problematic, particularly when the need is chronic and never-ending.

Rushing to refer placements without proper preparation leads to bad decisions and gaps in services. At a meeting convened by Community Board 7 this week, the proposed service provider conceded that the facilities on West 95th Street are not ready to meet the needs of the population intended for them. While supervisors and managers are on tap, no front-line staff has been hired for case management or counseling. Security cameras are expected to take at least two weeks to install once work begins. Moreover, the service provider does not have the capability to serve individuals with chemical dependencies or severe emotional or psychological handicaps on-site, even though it is expected that an unknown number of clients will require such services.

In addition, the process of integrating and coordinating services at some 40 other locations as part of the merger of the newly formed service provider with an existing one heightens our concerns.

We are also deeply concerned about the potential impact of the proposed placements on the existing residents of these two buildings. At present there are 71 units in the two buildings that are home to existing tenants. For years, these buildings have provided stable homes for these tenants at affordable rents. Introducing some 200 adult families into this environment is unfair to everyone – to the homeless clients for whom these buildings are not properly equipped, to the existing tenants whose lives will no doubt be severely disrupted, and to the surrounding community.

The landlord’s admission at this week’s meeting that he will not rent any of the remaining units in these buildings not already occupied or slated for shelter use amplifies our concerns. SROs should be used as affordable permanent housing. Using these units as transitional shelters precludes their intended use and impedes efforts to plan for a sustainable future.

As a starting point for discussion, we would like you to address the following questions and requests:
1)    The buildings in this matter were recently fined $600,000 for being used as illegal hotels and for having multiple housing code violations. A settlement was reached last year that required the landlords to fix outstanding violations and bring the buildings into compliance with all applicable City and State laws. Has DHS checked to ensure that the owner has complied with the settlement?
2)    What protections are in place to assure the safety and quality of life for the tenants of the 71 units that are currently occupied in these buildings?
3)    What assurance does DHS have that these permanent residents will not face harassment and displacement by management?
4)    What security plans have been drawn up, both for inside and outside the buildings and the surrounding community?
5)    What level of staffing can the neighborhood expect at the facility from the outset, and what level of training will be required?
6)    What screening process will be used to refer clients? Will individuals with known mental illnesses or chemical addictions be referred to these buildings? If people have needs that do not match the level of service that will be provided (e.g. the mentally ill, chemically dependent, etc.), how quickly will they be relocated?
7)    The provider will be required to submit documentation demonstrating that it fulfills the City’s Fair Share criteria. We request that these documents be provided to us now.

The concerns outlined above should make clear that any use of DHS’s emergency powers to make placements in those locations at this time should be immediately suspended.

We request that you and the appropriate members of your staff meet with us at the earliest possible opportunity next week to discuss these matters and arrive at appropriate solutions.

Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
Gale A. Brewer, Council Member
Linda B. Rosenthal, Assemblymember
Mark Diller, Chair, Community Board 7

REAL ESTATE | 7 comments | permalink
    1. Alan says:

      This has bin used as a shelter for 200 men for
      Over to years and it worked out very well .and
      I no rob v Hess and cara pace will do a great
      Job .

      • kyle says:

        We already support far more homeless than we should be asked to in the UWS. Move them to UES where the house about a tenth as many as we do. This can only bring crime.

    2. wyatt says:

      Community: Read the letter carefully.

      It is political double talk!!

      requests 1-7 are basically acknowledgements that this is a done deal and they just want to see the red tape requirements Note that # 1 was the penalty they are charnging the landlord for fixing it up nicely and renting the hotel as a ….hotel. Financially, what choice does he have but to accept the agency programs. Who can afford the penalties for running an honest business.

      PLUS – why are is this one city agency vs another? Clearly the are all have the same goals which is to get these buildings into city programs.

      Just look at what happened on 25th and 6th and the Bowery Mission. They got a 300 bed facilitilty that is destroying the block and only after it was a done deal, 30+ year lease + millions of taxpayer money was spent , then after community pressure, Christine Quinn wrote…a letter. They got what they really wanted, its up and running and destroying Chelsea. We are next.

    3. Uws11122 says:

      Why during these economic times when we are laying off teachers and cops, does this Dept of homeless services have an unlimited budget?
      Why do we have a dept solely to serve the homeless?
      What are they paying here per room that WE the taxpayers are paying?
      Why is new york city forced to house everyone who comes over its boarders where other cities do not?
      What other city would put them up in a prime expensive area?

    4. Stephanie says:

      This is exactly what i’m talking about for new york city! We HAVE to focus on those who need the most help, it’s not always about building the biggest/best condominiums and brownstones. i’m more than happy to put my tax dollars into finding homes for these people. This is also happening in tribeca as well!

    5. Shelly says:

      This is a huge step back for the upper west side – Use the East Side where hospitals are more accessible and where we can share our “wealth” of problems. We do have more than our share of low income housing on the upper west, and I am tired of being dumped on and feeling fear when walking in front of these buildings with people just hanging around. Don’t force us tax-paying westsiders to keep bearing the burden of housing homeless people while trying to improve our streets to make them clean and safe. So many people are moving back into our city looking for safe places to live and invest in on the upper westside because of it’s geographical position and its potential to improve. You are going to force them out because every time you add a new shelter or project, the surrounding values go down. Please don’t work against us, work with us, and don’t let us lose our stride.

    6. Don Arrup says:

      As a resident of twenty five years in one of the targeted buildings I am concerned. A few clarifications.

      The Upper West Side ends at 86th Street. I live in South Harlem. This is according to both the political jurisdiction and the Census. When I moved here in 1987 the saying in the papers was “Your chances of being murdered double north of 86th Street.” It was drug ridden and Riverside Park was dangerous after sundown.

      Why hasn’t an injunction been requested from a judge? Note the violations and laws broken.
      Equal distribution of vulnerable populations throughout the city. A joke. Every neighborhood that has fewer shelters and their population should absorb their growth until they come within our range.

      The rents that can be charged on these rooms are stabilized and fixed by law. The State should not be allowed to pay more. They are perverting the rent stabilization laws that were recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court. The State should pay the agencies and security companies directly for their services.

      Councilwoman Brewer has addressed the residents at our meetings and Assembly Member Rosenthal has been available. I’ve spoken to her more than once in front of my building about the competing interests and difficulty in coordinating responses.

      Anyone who thinks that the city and its agencies are aware of and coordinate with each other’s actions lives in a dream world. I have been a free lance writer for decades and covered all levels of government and large corporations and I can assure you that no large bureaucracy acts with one mind.

      There are no brownstones on my block. The Dutch Village above us near Broadway is a gated community. Still, there are many conflicting interests involved because the 300 block of 95th Street has the highest pedestrian traffic north of 72cd Street. It is one of the exits for the northbound Henry Hudson, the only level entrance to Riverside Park for almost twenty blocks and Emily Dickerson Elementary School is here.

      Both buildings in question had homeless men here a while ago but they were forced to leave after it was discovered that one was in violation of Megan’s Law. Many of the men were quiet and respected the privacy of the permanent residents with whom they shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. Some were not.

      I personally had no problem with the tourists when they stayed here and enjoyed the better cleaning services and upkeep. But I understand that Single Room Occupancies were designed precisely for New Yorkers like myself and my neighbors who work hard and live frugally.

      I sincerely hope that the city can find a way to accommodate the legitimate desire of the owners to turn a reasonable profit on their investment and the needs of the permanent residents and the greater community. I am, however, not confident that this will be the case.