Opponents Sound Off on Controversial UWS Homeless Shelters

By Emily Frost on September 5, 2012 10:53am 

UPPER WEST SIDE — Homeless shelters that will accommodate up to 400 adults on West 95th Street met with major opposition Tuesday.

Holding red signs reading "MORATORIUM NOW!" approximately 100 people gathered at Tuesday's Community Board 7 meeting to demonstrate their anger about a pair of shelters at 316 and 300 West 95th St., which began accepting homeless residents in August. 

Critics say the city's Department of Homeless Services used an emergency declaration to bypass community input and place homeless tenants alongside a community of low income residents who already lived in the buildings.

"Our advocacy work is falling on deaf ears," said Community Board 7 Chair Mark Diller, who joined City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, among others, to try to negotiate with DHS and the new service provider for the building, Housing Solutions USA.

Gwynne Rivers, the co-president of the parents association at PS 75, which is across the street from the shelters, brought her two daughters to the meeting. 

"Children are feeling scared to walk home alone," she said. "There are a lot of parents who are frightened."

Aaron Biller, president of the block association Neighborhood in the Nineties, which organized the rally, drew the most applause when he spoke about the next course of action.

"I’m putting a challenge out tonight," he said. "If you really stand against this, go to court, file a lawsuit on behalf of the homeless and the tenants.

Several community members and board members also called for a lawsuit to "urge this to the fore," and "force city officials into court." 

"There’s nothing about this that doesn’t stink," Diller said.

The board agreed to look over the ideas generated at the meeting and vowed to keep working on transforming the building back to its orginal purpose as low-income affordable housing.

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