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NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE NINETIES SUES CITY OVER 95TH STREET HOMELESS SHELTER


Aaron Biller of Neighborhood in the Nineties confronts Department of Homeless Services officials earlier this year.

Neighborhood in the Nineties, a nonprofit organization representing residents, building owners and local businesses in the West 90’s, has filed suit in state Supreme Court against the city and Aguila Inc. over the homeless shelter on West 95th street near Riverside Drive.

Comptroller John Liu rejected the city’s $46.8 million contract with Aguila earlier this month, but the city resubmitted it a few days later. Neighborhood in the Nineties says the contract should be rejected again and the shelter needs to be shut down.

The group claims that the city violated the “fair share” doctrine that says that the city shouldn’t concentrate too many facilities like homeless shelters in one neighborhood — every area should accept its fair share of social service agencies.

The group also claims that the shelter violates a code limiting the capacity of a shelter to 200 people.

A statement put out by┬áNeighborhood in the Nineties’ lawyer Stewart Wurtzel said:

Notwithstanding the Comptroller’s proper rejection of the Freedom House shelter at 316-330 West 95th Street, Manhattan contracts on July 3, 2013, the Department of Homeless Services and Aguila, Inc., without addressing any of the legitimate concerns raised by the Comptroller, resubmitted the same defective contract for registration with the Comptroller. As a result, Neighborhood In The Nineties, Inc. has commenced action today in the Supreme Court New York County for a determination that the shelter, as proposed, violates numerous provisions of the New York City Charter and administrative code.

The lawsuit brought by Neighborhood In The Nineties alleges that the City has violated its Fair Share obligations as specified in the City Charter and has proposed a shelter which exceeds the legal limits set forth in the City Administrative Code.   Further, the lawsuit alleges that the manner in which the Shelter has operated constitutes a nuisance.

Neighborhood In The Nineties is seeking an injunction preventing the contract from being registered and enjoining the operation of the Shelter as being violative of City laws.”

DHS and Aguila have not responded to our requests for comment. The legal document is posted below (click in the corner to enlarge it to full-screen).

Amended Summons With Notice(1)

NEWS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Drew says:

      Go get em!

    2. Oskar says:

      In my view DHS should have been sued months ago as they were operating without a contract AND broke the law with respect to size (200 shelter residents max, this shelter has 400). Better late than never, it is important for the greater neighborhood that this suit succeed.

    3. Crawford says:

      Am I missing something?

      I thought the UWS was angry tourists were staying in the SRO hotels, and voted for Gail Brewer, and supported her push to have SROs reserved for the homeless?

      I always thought Gail Brewer was wacko, and her anti-hotel, pro-shelter initiative bizarre, but isn’t this what West Siders wanted?

      • Beth says:

        No, the neighborhood preferred the backpackers.

      • webot says:

        Yes.Crawford this is 100%.

        Gail and LInda sniffed that they do not want to “share the sidewalks with backpackers”.

        Has anyone confronted them with the disaster they created. Believe me, they were warned this is what would happen.

        Yes, we are liberal, we live on the Upper West Side, but enough is enough.. This is destroying the community and costing taxpayers millions.

    4. NikFromNYC says:

      Backpackers can’t be community organized.

    5. MJ says:

      Thank goodness! Enough taking advantage of the UWS. No more shelters, period.

    6. VM says:

      I lived next door to this SRO & never felt like it was an issue. Yes, people kept their refrigerated goods outside their windows in the winter, but that was about it. Never felt unsafe in any way (I mean, these people have a place to stay. That is kind of essential for happiness, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs + all…).

      If anything, I felt safer because there were more people on the street to see what was happening when I was coming home at night (blocks between West End & Riverside can be awfully quiet at night).

      There are definitely some issues (like that whole excessive-profit situation), but I really struggle to understand why someone would want to take housing away from people who are struggling in life. Have a little compassion.

      • UWSider says:

        VM, DHS is counting on people to assume the West 90s is not compassionate. In reality, the shelter is pushing out the very kind of long-term affordable housing residents you lived next door to with no problem and whom the neighborhood supports. The landlord was convicted of practices to harass such tenants out so he could bring in more lucrative tenants -in this case many of whom walk around bragging openly and loudly about their criminal records. A significant number of the new shelter residents are nothing like the people you remember and who are long-time neighborhood fixtures. We just had 10 smashed car windows in a 3 day period; thefts of locked bicycles from basements; knifepoint robberies, increased drug use, loitering, littering, noise, frequent fires and fights in the building, people sleeping on park benches with their alcohol flasks when they miss curfew, people sleeping in lobbies of nearby buildings, mentally ill people found wandering the halls of other buildings and trying to force their way in past exiting residents. There’s a big difference between objecting to these things and “not having compassion.” Don’t fall for DHS’ trap.

        • MJ says:

          UWSider, I couldn’t agree with you more. These are two different populations of people. As for compassion, the UWS has tons of it. More than our fair share. Facilities like these, SRO’s,etc, need to be evenly distributed throughout the city. We have plenty. Send this one elsewhere. Balance is key.

        • Bruce Bernstein says:

          I live on the block (95th between West End and riverside) where the two shelters are. I have seen no evidence — NONE — of any of the activities described above. i walk up down the block an average of 8-10x per day. there is no noticeable change in the block other than it is probably safer due to the 24 hour presence of security guards outside the two buildings.

          i have heard all sorts of claims of increased crime. If the writer can give me actual evidence — which building had the “theft of locked bicycles from basements”? when? how did they get in? — i would be glad to investigate. Sorry, but i am skeptical about this “crime wave”.

          neither have i noticed anyone walking around “bragging openly and loudly about their criminal record.”

          what i HAVE noticed is a tremendous amount of NIMBY attitude on this page whenever homelessness or subsidized housing is mentioned. for example, a woman was murdered recently on W 94th in a domestic dispute. many of the comments after the news item in West Side Rag were despicable. you can look it up.

          there is plenty to complain about regarding how those shelters were put into place and the “insider” contract. i don’t think this has to be combined with vitriol towards the occupants and attempts to make every possible crime incident in the neighborhood their fault.

          • Gayton Gomez says:

            Bruce, where do you live? I live next door to the shelter, with an apartment that faces the courtyard between them. Before the shelter went in, the courtyard was peaceful. Now several times a week there is screaming, fighting, and the sound of glass breaking, and quite often it’s at 3 am. It wakes me out of a sound sleep, despite my air conditioner and foam earplugs that block out 30 decibels. I’m glad your place is peaceful — would you care to trade apartments? I’m amazed that you apparently haven’t noticed the cop cars and fire trucks that are at least a weekly appearance in front of the shelter. And I guess you’ve never had to walk past any of the loiterers that often linger at night under the scaffolding next to my building, sometimes smoking pot, sometimes panhandling, and sometimes fighting. I have to walk through it to get home; I can’t avoid it. By the way, those security people you’ve seen outside are taking cigarette breaks, not providing security. They never seem all that concerned when I walk over to report the screaming I can hear from my apartment window. And you’re not making me or anyone else feel guilty by your NIMBY accusations. This neighborhood had more than its fair share of shelters before this one went in — not to mention this one violates numerous city regulations.

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              Gayton, I live at 230 RSD with an apt on the street side. i have heard no yelling on the street at night, or no more than there was before. it is not a quiet street and never has been!

              I appreciate the evidence you have presented. Apparently your window faces the back of the buildings, with what you describe as a “courtyard.” i can’t attest from personal observation to what goes on in that courtyard: only what goes on on the street. which is — not much different from before, if different at all.

              tonight at about 11:20 PM I walked past the shelters, no loiterers anywhere. one man sitting in front of the building, who described himself as a longtime tenant. he said the security in the buildings was very good and introduced me to the head of security, who seemed extremely responsible and responsive.

              there were two cop cars in front, but they were accompanying an ambulance. Now, perhaps there was a stabbing or shooting. we will find out tomorrow. But more likely there was a heart attack or stroke. and the cops have to come when there is an emergency.

              most of the time when there are cops on the block it is because of the “ticket trap” on the corner.

              i look at evidence, and i’ve seen a lot of evidence of NIMBY attitudes, including on this site. But I’ll keep looking at evidence and if I see that it (the resentment) is justified i will change my mind. thank you for providing what you have seen and heard.

          • UWSider says:

            Bruce, just because you haven’t witnessed something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The locked bicycles were stolen from 310 W 94th St. How did the thief get in? Maybe the same way a disturbed woman was found wandering the halls of my building. Nobody saw how either one happened. Police reported 10 smash-n-grabs in late June on West 94th Street and nearby. I personally saw 8 of those smashed windows. Four more have been reported in the last week -I saw three of them and a neighbor reported another one on your block next to the school- and police have been on the scene. There are news and police reports of the knifepoint robberies. Neighbors who have spoken to shelter residents have heard horror stories. If you spent more time talking to your neighbors and less time being judgmental you might actually be aware of what is going on. The woman murdered on 94th Street was a long-time tenant who worked at a soup kitchen and was murdered by her boyfriend -and one of the tenants who had been harassed by a landlord getting sweet city money to bring in new, more lucrative tenants (and neighbors had tried to help her). Neighbors who knew her -and even those who didn’t directly know her- were shocked and sympathetic for her family. How is that NIMBYism? Nobody is saying that every single new crime is the result of the shelter -but that does not change the fact that there is a crime wave, and that the only new factor is the city dumping 400 people -many of whom have exhibited antisocial behavior within and outside of the building, whether or not you actually have seen it. It’s hard to see any more likely explanation. Take a look at Riverside Drive and Joan of Arc which are now trashcans for beer bottles, cigarette butts, used condoms, and fast food packaging despite efforts by the park and volunteers to clean it up. 100% the result of the shelter? probably not. But again, nothing else has changed that could explain such a dramatic deterioration.

      • Gayton Gomez says:

        @VM — I’ve lived next door to the building since it was an SRO, and I agree — the SRO tenants were no problem. (Neither were the backpackers.) But the situation now is NOTHING like it was then. And unfortunately, the SRO tenants are the ones suffering most from the city turning their building into a homeless shelter. Ironically, their “affordable housing” now costs the taxpayers more than any of the market rate apartments in my building next door! The SRO tenants are being driven out, and it’s a crying shame. I’d be very happy to see the building turned back into an SRO.

    7. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Here is a comment from someone who is a researcher, apparently a sociologist, who researched these two buildings. It was posted here about a month ago in response to a long chain of vitriol about the buildings:

      <>

    8. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Sorry, the quote didn’t print because i put it in brackets. Here is the quote.

      June 27, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      I am a homelessness researcher from another country. I have been studying homelessness in New York for a while now. I just spend one full afternoon and one late evening observating these two shelter buildings. The only thing I noticed was a couple of workers with uniforms passing by every now and then. Otherwise they seemed like any other working class building in the NY. No drug dealers, prostitutes, panhandlers what so ever. What is the problem here?

      • westsideMoms says:

        Bruce- you are such an advocate why don’t you move in?

        How about the millions of taxpayer dollars being spent here? $3k a month per room.

        Also, we know the truth , this guy – if real – was there once?

        these are blights on the community and will ultimately destroy it if we allow it.
        I was here in the 70s , I know.

      • Gayton Gomez says:

        That sociologist is welcome to come to my place and spend a couple of nights in my living room. My windows face the shelter; he can help me figure out which windows the screaming is coming from on any given night.

      • UWSider says:

        Wow, one full afternoon and an evening. That really makes this person an “expert.” Clearly more than the people who live here.

        • 95 In The Shade says:

          There is yelling on 95th Street day AND NIGHT and while it’s not “continuous,” it always leaves us waiting for the next boisterous outbreak, which always arrives. The noise, while unacceptable, is mostly not “violent” in nature and, for all I know, much of it may even come from the security guards or other shelter staff out on their breaks. In any case, it’s possible that Bruce doesn’t hear it because he lives on the west side of the building, on the corner of Riverside Drive. Even if the street his windows face IS 95th St., he’s considerably farther from the area occupied by the shelters, and the sound of the traffic from the highway would probably do its part to mask the noise as well.