By Tara Kyle
HELL'S KITCHEN — A large-scale homeless facility in Chelsea has secured its long-term contract with the city, clearing a hurdle toward its controverisal late May opening.
The Bowery Residents Committee's new contract for a 200-bed facility at 127 W. 25th Street for homeless men with a history of mental illness covers a 10 year period with two five-year options for renewal, BRC executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt said Wednesday.
The contract is worth $76 million over the 20-year duration, according to Rosenblatt.
At the same location, BRC will also operate a 96-bed center for a variety of services and 32-bed chemical dependency crisis center with existing contracts in place.
The contract represents a blow to the facility's opponents, including organizers of a protest last week and members of the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition, who have been fighting the project for nearly a year because they believe its big size will threaten their safety and quality of life.
On Tuesday night, roughly 75 opponents attended a rowdy, three-hour meeting about the shelter with the representatives of the Department of Homeless Services and Community Board 4's health, housing and human services committee.
The meeting, scheduled to discuss a DHS analysis of the shelter's siting in East Chelsea, was frequently erupted into jeers, groans and sarcasm, with occasional outbursts of applause.
One Chelsea Flatiron Coalition member, estate executor Jeff Lew, clutched his 9-year-old daughter's shoulder as he addressed DHS and CB4.
"You think of all the other children who are in this community right now," Lew said, "and all the parents, many of whom spent their life savings to buy a home, who will be forced out."
DHS First Deputy Commissioner George Nashak, however, told the crowd he had never seen "a shred of evidence" that the presence of homeless shelters in a neighborhood cause either crime to rise or property values to drop.
CB4 is on record as opposing the 200-bed program on the grounds that it is too large for the area, a section of East Chelsea that was once dominated by manufacturing, but has grown increasingly residential in recent years. The board does, however, support the 96-bed reception center and 32-bed chemical dependency program.
Another project opponent, real estate attorney Brian Sampson, was frustrated that despite the Board's position, the 200-bed facility seemed on track to open.
"You failed me. You failed my daughter, you failed my wife," Sampson said to members of CB4's health, housing and human services committee. "We are asking, we're begging you. This is a joke at this point. You are here for us."
Rosenblatt did not attend Tuesday's meeting, instead holding his own organization's monthly community advisory committee session at the same time.
There, attendees including representatives of the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Penn South housing development and the NYPD's 13th Precinct, got introduced to members of the 25th Street facility's staff.
Rosenblatt has repeatedly described himself as "saddened" that more of the project's opponents have not spent time getting to know BRC better by either attending his meetings or visiting other BRC facilities.
"All of us at BRC look forward to our move to Chelsea, and to working together with our many open-minded neighbors, in successfully helping people reclaim lives lost," Rosenblatt wrote in a statement last week.
Next Tuesday, May 17, another protest is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. outside the facility's entrance on W. 25th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue. On the same evening, BRC will open a client art show at the TD Bank on 26th Street and Seventh Avenue.