UPPER WEST SIDE — A controversial 400-person homeless shelter that was supposed to move half its residents out by Saturday under a deal with elected officials will not meet its deadline — angering locals who have long fought to shutter the shelter.
Freedom House, located on West 95th Street, agreed to remove the 200 tenants by Nov. 1, after the Department of Homeless Services reached a deal with local and citywide politicians in the face of pressure from neighbors.
But as of Friday afternoon, a day before the deadline, 40 of the 200 people expected to move out will still be there after this weekend, said DHS press secretary Christopher Miller — news that surprised and angered the advocacy group fighting for the shelter's shuttering.
"We are moving families as fast and as compassionately as we can," said Miller, who said the remaining families would move out "shortly," but did not give the exact timing. The homeless people getting relocated were headed to shelters in Manhattan and Brooklyn, he noted, without specifying exact locations.
City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal's office confirmed Friday that they heard the deadline had not been met. She had pledged to make the issue one of her top priorities upon taking office and has opposed the shelter's location near a school. Her office did not respond to a request for comment.
"[DHS] made this agreement in April. It’s now almost November... they obviously don’t have their act together," said Aaron Biller, president of Neighborhood in the Nineties, the advocacy organization leading the fight against the shelter."
Biller conceded that residents' lives were involved in the agreement, saying he would understand if there was a delay, as long as it was a relatively short one. However, he was not confident DHS would uphold the agreement to his group's liking.
"Are they just playing games with us?" he said. "At what point are they just doing foot-dragging?"
If his group isn't satisfied by an answer from DHS on an updated timeline, it will hear from the community, through protests and possibly legal action, Biller said.
Getting the attention of the elected officials who touted the reduction as a political win — including city Comptroller Scott Stringer and and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer — and holding them accountable should help move the process along, he added.
"They don’t want to see us holding protests at the community board," Biller said.