By Tara Kyle
CHELSEA — Chelsea community leaders voted Wednesday night to request a reduced bed count at a controversial proposed homeless shelter on West 25th Street.
Community Board 4 agreed to back the creation of a 32-bed chemical-dependency crisis center and a 96-bed reception center for homeless men and women at 127 W. 25th St, but they will not support a proposal by the Bowery Residents' Committee (BRC) to put in an additional 200 beds for homeless men with a history of mental illness.
The vote followed comments from neighborhood residents, BRC employees including executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt, and representatives from the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition, a group that has created a legal fund to fight the project.
Many locals charged that the BRC's proposed 12-story, 328-bed shelter would harm their quality of life.
During the public session at Wednesday’s meeting, one mother asked the board to consider the project’s proximity to Madison Square Park and local schools.
And Chelsea Flatiron Coalition members contend that BRC is in violation of zoning laws because they describe themselves as a “transient hotel” rather than a medical facility, which would be illegal at the proposed site.
But homeless shelters without doctors and nurses do qualify under zoning laws as “transient hotels,” said CB4 District Manager Robert Benfatto, although he noted “some people get upset thinking it’s trying to fool them." The Department of Buildings is currently re-reviewing the matter.
BRC executive director Rosenblatt and a few committee members tried to convince the community the project was the right thing to do by talking about the critical role BRC plays in serving a homeless population that has only grown during the recession.
In the end, CB4 offered their “conditional support” to the project — qualifying that they were not in favor of the 200-bed shelter for mentally ill homeless men — in the form of a letter sent to BRC, the Department of Homeless Services and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.