Judge Margaret Chan dealt a setback to opponents of the homeless shelter on West 95th street, dismissing their claims that the shelter violates the city’s “fair share” rules that say no one neighborhood should have to accept a disproportionate number of shelters. Neighborhood in the Nineties, the group that brought the suit, plans to appeal the ruling.
The ruling also dismissed former comptroller John Liu’s decision to reject the five-year $47 million shelter contract. The contract also allows DHS to determine whether to extend the shelter to a 9.5-year contract.
It’s not clear what happens now. Aaron Biller, the leader of Neighborhood in the Nineties, says that the Department of Homeless Services has to submit a new contract. A spokesman for Comptroller Scott Stringer said Stringer is reviewing his options, but that the judge’s order forces the office to register the contract. Stringer could potentially appeal, though it’s not clear whether he will. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council member Helen Rosenthal did not respond to requests for comment and clarification. We last wrote about the shelter earlier this week.
Biller said he hopes de Blasio’s office decides to give up on a five-year contract and instead works on transitioning shelter residents to more permanent housing and closing the shelter within a year. “We don’t want to kick people out on the street,” he said. “We want these SRO buildings to be used for affordable housing.”
Biller sent a letter to de Blasio pleading with him to work with locals and stop a long-term contract.
“Neither the operator’s nor landlord’s track records justify the city’s blessing to operate a shelter with 400 adults, much less locking taxpayers into a 9.5-year wasteful contract. Nor does DHS deserve a reward for ramrodding a short-term “emergency” contract into a long-term one using deceptive tactics to avoid public scrutiny. DHS claimed that there were no shelters within 400 feet, despite being immediately behind St Louis Hall, home to more than 100 mentally ill chemically addicted DHS clients. The St Louis is run by an organization which harassed many long-term residents out of the building to make room for a more lucrative deal, and brings the special needs population on a single block to more than 500.
Given the progressive agenda you have outlined, our City’s approach to homelessness must change so that it better serves the homeless and communities like ours that have been generous and tolerant despite bearing more than our fair share of the burden for providing support to troubled populations.
The solution is to engage, not litigate. Work with us on solutions that help the homeless, but not at the expense of existing SRO tenants, and not by supporting bad actors. We urge you: tear up this proposed, flawed contract and help the community to restore the shelter to affordable housing within 12 months.”
The judge’s ruling is below: