Judge Clears Way for Controversial Chelsea Shelter to Open

By Meredith Hoffman on July 12, 2011 1:41pm 

CHELSEA — A judge has shot down attempts to block a controversial Chelsea homeless shelter, clearing the way for it to open as soon as this week.

New York Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden ruled Friday against the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the Bowery Residence Committee homeless shelter from opening Friday at 127 West 25th Street. 

The group challenged the plan in February, telling the judge that it would violate city homeless shelter occupancy rules by offering more than 200 beds to clients.

Madden ruled that the shelter's size does not violate local law, and said the shelter can begin accepting residents into the building any time after July 15.

Though she refused to issue an injunction, the judge will make a final decision on the application after a July 22 hearing.

The BRC's attorney, Randy Mastro, said her refusal to grant an injunction made him confident the BRC would win the case.

Requests for comment from the CFC were not immediately returned.

The shelter will have 200 beds for men with a history of mental illness, 32 beds as part of a drug dependency crisis center, and 96 beds for intake of homeless men and women. 

"[The Bowery Residence Committee] has great respect for the court's wisdom in its decision," BRC executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt wrote in a statement.

The ruling came as a disappointment to opponents, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn who has written letters requesting legal action against the shelter in previous months.

Quinn's office has maintained that BRC should not move in residents until after the July 22nd hearing.

"While the judge has ruled on the request for an injunction, until the entire case is resolved the Department of Homeless Services should continue to wait for a final ruling," said Quinn spokeswoman Maria Alvarado said Monday in an email to DNAinfo.com.

The judge's decision also angered some local residents who were already planning a rally for Wednesday evening in front of the "mega-shelter."

“This [project] is irresponsible,” said Maggie Gallagher, pushing her baby in a stroller on the block Monday afternoon.

Gallagher, a resident on the street and the leader of Chelsea Moms, a community group that came together to combat the shelter, said its high number of residents was “asking for trouble,” and maintained that is was illegal.

“There’s no way [the shelter] is going to service this many people,” said Gallagher.

“The tentacles of the project will reach all of the neighborhood, not just the block.”

Lisa Rabinovicz, who has two young  grandchildren living on the block, worried the residence would “destroy this neighborhood for the children." 

“Inappropriate behavior on this street already exists,” she said, adding that another shelter was just a block away.

“I’m concerned for the welfare of my grandchildren.”

But not everyone felt as threatened by the shelter’s opening.

“I thought [the shelter] was already open,” said Mark Broussard, owner of Dixie Foam Beds on 113 West 27th St., adding that he had hoped to sell the facility beds.

"People have to have somewhere to go."

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