Controversial Chelsea Homeless Shelter Delays Opening

By Meredith Hoffman on July 14, 2011 4:30pm 

CHELSEA — A controversial homeless shelter at 127 West 25th Street has delayed its official opening amid ongoing legal battles with opponents, a lawyer for the shelter said.

The 328-bed Bowery Residence Committee shelter was cleared by a judge to begin accepting homeless clients starting Friday, but has opted to delay the opening as a result of continued protest from some in the area.

"We expect that [the opening] to happen some time later next week," said Randy Mastro, the attorney for BRC's executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt. Mastro said he was approached by a lawyer for the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition — which filed a lawsuit to stop the shelter's opening — saying they planned to continue their fight despite a judge's ruling in favor of the shelter last week.

"The attorney [for CFC] said he will file an appeal Monday," said Mastro, "but this will not affect BRC's ability to begin moving people into the building."

Opponents have long protested against the project, calling it "an illegal mega-shelter," and they rallied again Wednesday in front of the property to voice their concerns.

The protests have shrunk in recent months, angering opponent Kate Ahearn, who has lobbied hard against the opening.

"This is pathetic!" Ahearn said into a microphone. "We need hundreds of people out here. You're going to go to your neighbors, and say 'show up or shut up!'"

After her speech, she said, "I shlepped three days all over putting up the flyers [for this protest]. I think people in this neighborhood feel beat-up."

She added that the felt the neighborhood always welcomed people, but that the numbers at this shelter were too high.

Other attendees shared concerns about the shelter's catering to people with drug addictions and mental instability.

"Muzzy might have the best of intentions, I'm not going to question that," said Brian Sampson, a member of the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition who has been involved in the legal battle. "But did they comply with the law? No they didn't."

"If anybody tells you this is over, tell them otherwise," he said. "This is far from over."

Sampson asked the group to continue funding the lawyer combating BRC, and to send letters to Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Maggie Gallagher, a resident and the head of Chelsea Moms, which opposes the shelter, also spoke and handed out letters for the group to send to Speaker ChristineQuinn, who has already written her own letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposing the project.

"People need to know that we're still here," said Gallagher, who has told DNAinfo she is concerned about her child's welfare if the residence opens. "We're still concerned." 

Muzzy Rosenblatt, the Executive Director of BRC, declined to comment.

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