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Controversial UWS Homeless Shelters' Five-Year Contract Rejected

By Emily Frost | July 5, 2013 1:45pm
 City Comptroller cited inadherence to the Fair Share doctrine in his rejection. 
West 95th Street Homeless Shelters Contracts Rejected
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UPPER WEST SIDE — City Comptroller John Liu has rejected a five year contract for two controversial homeless shelters installed last summer on West 95th Street, to the relief of critics who have railed against them since their "emergency" opening and the consternation of city officials who blasted it as political grandstanding.

Liu rejected the city's Department of Homeless Services' $46.8 million contract with service provider Aguila, Inc. to provide what it characterized as "emergency" homeless housing for up to 400 adults at 316 and 300 West 95th St in what was supposed to be a temporary solution for an overflow of people in need of housing.

Liu took issue with questions over whether DHS properly followed the Fair Share doctrine, meant to keep neighborhoods from carrying too much of the burden in providing social services. 

“Transparency is paramount when siting homeless shelters, and these contracts failed the test on many counts," said Liu, who is running for Mayor. Liu previously rejected another Aguila contract in the Bronx, on similar grounds, and has said Mayor Bloomberg's "failed" when it comes to policies for the homeless.

Liu's office said the decision over whether or when to close the shelters was up to DHS to decide, but Liu spokeswoman Stephanie Hoo warned, "vendors that operate without a contract are at risk of not being paid."

DHS officials did not immediately return request for comment.

The shelters were opposed by many in the community, including community residents, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, Borough President Scott Stringer and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who vowed at a public meeting in January and subsequent discussions that they were working to make sure the five year contract did not move forward.

Bloomberg's office hit back, calling Liu's move politically motivated.

"This is another example of John Liu abandoning any pretense of acting as an appropriate fiscal steward rather than a candidate for political office," said Samantha Levine, deputy press secretary for the Mayor.

Levine said the city would continue to push for the contracts "for the vulnerable New Yorkers who badly need these services." 

The shelters have long been a source of frustration for neighbors, according to local resident watch group Neighborhood in the Nineties, which has been at the forefront of the campaign to remove them.

The group blamed the shelters for an uptick in crime on its website, however, Police statistics from the 24th Precinct show an across the board decrease in neighborhood crime. 

In January, hundreds of residents complained to DHS representatives about the presence of the shelters.