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Homeless Shelter Opens as Foes Demand Council Hearing

By Meredith Hoffman | July 26, 2011 9:47pm | Updated on July 27, 2011 8:44am
Council Speaker Christine Quinn is among the public officials who called a last-minute public hearing on the BRC Shelter in Chelsea.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn is among the public officials who called a last-minute public hearing on the BRC Shelter in Chelsea.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

CHELSEA — After months of anticipation, neighborhood protests and legal battles, the BRC residence at 127 W. 25th St. will open its doors to clients Wednesday — on the same day that opponents call their own last-minute hearing to try to stop it.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has been an outspoken critic of the the 328-bed facility for the homeless and substance abuse patients, said in a letter to constituents that she and other City Council members were presenting a resolution to the City Council's Committee on General Welfare at a public hearing at 10:30 a.m Wednesday.

If approved by the committee and the full City Council, the resolution would authorize the Council to file a letter to the court or intervene in some other way in support of the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition's ongoing lawsuit against the BRC on the grounds that the shelter violates city law.

"This issue not only affects my council district, but is one that has implications for the entire city," Quinn wrote in the letter. "My colleagues and I strongly believe that it is critical for the City Council to step in."

A judge ruled in favor of the BRC earlier this month, allowing it to open its doors even as the remainder of the issues in the lawsuit remain to be determined.

The first day of operations had been postponed from Friday July 15th amid an earlier round of community opposition.

The BRC will only welcome 24 residents to its chemical dependency crisis center (CDCC) on Wednesday. The clients, recovering from substance abuse, will all be transferred Wednesday from another BRC location at 324 Lafayette Street, according to BRC Executive Director Muzzy Rosenblatt.

Rosenblatt said Monday that "shelter" was the wrong word to use for this section of the center.

"These people are not all homeless," he said. "Many are [homeless], but they're here because they're in recovery from addiction."

There is no definitive length of time each client will stay at the CDCC, said Rosenblatt, explaining that the program is designed to break people's addictions for good.

He added that in this section of the BRC facility, clients will have scheduled rehab sessions and meals all within the building.

"In order for you to succeed in it you have to stay in it," said Rosenblatt, though he said there's no "hard and fast" rule kicking clients out of the program for leaving the building.

The rest of the facility, including a 200-bed shelter for homeless clients, will open "soon," said Rosenblatt, but he did not specify a date.

"We're eventually moving all the programs at Lafayette Street to this building," said Rosenblatt. "I hope and expect that we will continue to do the great work BRC has been known for for 40 years, and to use the opportunity of this move to help more people."

Still, the legal battles have not concluded, including the latest lawsuit filed earlier this month against the developer of the BRC property. As the Real Deal reported, the brokerage Cassidy Turley New York has filed a suit against 127 W. 25th St developer Dan Shavolian, claiming he neglected to pay them a $2.3 million commission.

"These suits are not going to stop us from moving people in," insisted Rosenblatt.

He said, "Just because someone is trying to say gay marriage is illegal doesn't mean people should stop getting married.  Just because someone says what BRC is doing is illegal doesn't mean BRC should stop either. 

"What we are doing is legal and has been upheld in Court."