Alan Lapes, who is the landlord for numerous Upper West Side homeless shelters, is making a lot of money by turning SRO buildings into for-profit homeless shelters like one that opened this summer on 95th Street, the New York Times explained in a front-page article this weekend. As the homeless population has jumped in the city, it’s become a very lucrative business opportunity for some people in the city.
The story confirms many of Upper West Siders’ worst fears about the shelters that have proliferated once again in the area (some of which we’ve already reported):
- SRO tenants are being pushed out or paid off to leave the 95th Street shelter so that more rooms can be rented to the shelter operator at rates of $122 per night per room ($3,660 per month).
- Lapes has a very troubling track record, and tenants complain of prostitution, drug use, and violence at the shelters.
- Shelter residents are apparently not getting the help they need to improve their lives. They have “only brief interviews and receive almost no actual referrals.”
- Homelessness is now at 30-year record levels in the city, and laws requiring housing the homeless as well as a lack of units give landlords leverage to charge higher rates.
The financial transaction is somewhat complicated. Apparently Lapes gets about half of the daily rent on each unit ($63), with the rest going to Aguila, the company that runs the shelters. But Lapes himself doesn’t own many of the buildings. He tends to rent them from the Podolsky family, which itself has a troubling history on the UWS: “In the late 1980s, [Stuart] Podolsky, his father and his brother, pleaded guilty to charges by the Manhattan district attorney’s office that they used threats and violence to drive tenants out of three Upper West Side buildings so they could rent them to new tenants at far higher rents or sell them as condominiums or cooperatives. [His attorney] said the guilty pleas were ‘ancient history.'”
To anyone who thinks Upper West Siders oppose the shelters simply for NIMBY reasons, check out this part of the article:
“At several of Mr. Lapes’s shelters, tenants — both homeless and longer-term residents — say the buildings are often characterized by violence, drug-use, mice, broken elevators, periods without heat and hot water, and violations of fire safety laws. At 237 West 107th Street, a six-story women’s shelter formerly known as the West Side Inn, many of the 200 tenants said they often waited for an hour or more to take a shower at one of the shared bathrooms on each floor.
Joyce Colon, a resident there who entered the homeless system in December, said she was shocked by the violence and prostitution in the building.
‘For $3,000 I could have gotten an apartment, a down payment and a security deposit and some furniture,” Ms. Colon, 49, said. “The landlord is getting $3,000 and I’m getting nothing.”
The group Neighborhood in the Nineties is urging Upper West Siders to contact John Liu and tell him not to give final approval for a new five-year contract for the 95th Street shelter. Lapes, by the way, has given very generously to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is running for mayor (Lapes has given him $4,950 for the 2013 election cycle and another $4,950 to cover de Blasio’s debts from his 2009 campaign. His wife has also donated to de Blasio). De Blasio came to a forum on the Upper West Side a few months ago and pledged to look into the homeless shelter issue. It’s probably time to check back in with him and see if he’s taking any action.
Read all our coverage of the shelters here.
Considering how corrupt John Liu is, don’t hold your breath.
Completely apart from the (justifiable) local anger, there is something seriously wrong with our society when it encourages this sort of wasteful warehousing of those with limited resources, at the same time that it *encourages* the waste of valuable housing resources on the uber-wealthy.
Take a look at this piece in today’s Times, about the many foreign billionaires who buy up (presumably huge) condos and rarely visit, let alone live there: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/nyregion/paying-top-dollar-for-condos-and-leaving-them-empty.html?_r=0
Here’s the question: If our society is so concerned about housing the poor, why do we allow the developers to keep creating these brick “piggy banks” knowing that they will be taking valuable housing stock out of availability?
Why isn’t this land used to build housing for the poor, rather than stealing housing from the middle class?
Shocking that de Blasio has taken money from Lapes. Guess we know where he stands on this issue since he showed up at the Forum on Homeless Shelters appearing to have no information about this issue. Now we see why.
This contract should not be renewed there is misappropriated funds by Aquila.
Doesn’t everyone see the corruption here? How long can a person stay in this system?
Whatever happened to housing people in vacant schools? Parochial Schools that are closing would be put to good use.
The level of corruption shelter allowed to keep operating when the emergency contract is expired and no perm contract has yet been signed? Should be shut down immediately. Prob means they are just waiting for the noise to die down before signing. Be sure to remember the players come election time, i.e. don’t vote for Lapes-loving De Blasio.
Sorry some of my text disappeared, should read:the level of corruption here is absurd, and how can this shelter keep operating when the emergency contract has expired and no permanent contract has been signed?
Based on this article, I wanted to email Bill De Blasio regarding his alliance with Alan Lapes. Since there is no direct email to our politicians, I decided to send him a message on his Facebook page. I was very surprised to see an article about how he is coming to the rescue of people in the East Bronx who are victimized by these homeless shelter landlords. I decided to comment. When I went to look at his page again….The article and my comment were no longer visible.,
THIS WAS MY COMMENT:
I live on the Upper West Side and read a rather disturbing article in the West Side Rag that you have received donations from Alan Lapes who along with others is turning SRO building into for-profit homeless shelters on the UWS. This weekend The New York Times had a scathing front page article about this situation. I know that you did attended a forum on the UWS regarding this issue and that you pledged to look it. I wonder if any action is being taken and what the plans are to remedy the situation.
This is how you reach De Blasio: