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'Horrors of Homeless Housing' Report Finds Sites Filled with Violations

By Eddie Small | January 19, 2017 5:42pm
 State Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference released a report entitled
State Sen. Jeff Klein and the Independent Democratic Conference released a report entitled "Horrors in Homeless Housing" on Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

NEW YORK — Hotels and cluster sites used to shelter the city's homeless are filled with lead paint, broken toilets and dangerous cooking spaces, according to a scathing new report from the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference.

The report, called "Horrors in Homeless Housing," analyzed inspection data from hotels and cluster sites throughout New York City and found that many were rife with safety issues and open violations with the city.

"They're actually providing substandard living conditions," said state Sen. Jeff Klein, who helped put together the report. "You know, if any one of us was living in any place like this, we would be calling 311 every day."

The report found a total of 433 open violations across 78 percent of the city's hotels used for homeless services. The worst offender was the Dawn Hotel at 6-8 St. Nicholas Pl. in Manhattan, which had 78 open violations and citations for issues including broken sinks, broken floors and toilets that don’t flush.

Manhattan’s Frant Hotel at 209-211 W. 101st St. was number two with 59 open violations, and the Ellington Hotel at 610 W. 111th St. was number three with 37 open violations.

The investigation was even more critical of cluster sites, describing them as "even worse than the hotels."

The report found that 93 percent of cluster sites it analyzed had open violations, with an average number of 68 violations per site.

The site at 1055 University Ave. in The Bronx run by the Bushwick Economic Development Corporation had the most open violations with 185, and its problems included roach infestations, mold and missing door locks, according to the report.

The number two cluster site was run by LCG Community Services at 111 E. Moshulu Pkwy. N., and number three was another BEDCO site at 250 E. 176th St. The sites had 166 and 158 open violations, respectively.

BEDCO also operates the cluster site at 720 Hunts Point Ave., where a malfunctioning radiator killed two young girls in December.

Although that site was not in the top 10 for open violations, the report still cited the tragedy as "a gruesome multiple fatality" that "highlighted the dangerous nature of run down cluster sites."

The report also includes proposed legislation that the IDC says would help combat homelessness throughout the state, namely the Home Stability Support initiative, a rent supplement program for people who are currently homeless or facing eviction.

More than 80,000 households would be eligible for benefits under the program, which would cost the state roughly $490 million and save more than $1 billion per year by reducing the use of beds and supplements in shelters, according to the report.

Domestic violence survivors will be included in the HSS initiative, and the IDC's legislation would also seek to expand anti-discrimination measures in housing, give people living in shelters preference in the city’s housing lottery and require a homeless survey to be conducted across the state.

The report is critical of the city's Living in Communities voucher program, which started in September 2014 as a way to move families living in shelters into stable housing, citing a 2015 DNAinfo story showing that 80 percent of LINC vouchers were not being used.

Isaac McGinn, spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services, said that, since 2016, the agency has closed more than 10,000 violations and allocated hundreds of millions of dollars for renovations at shelters.

"We have also stopped using nearly 600 cluster units and continue our aggressive enforcement efforts against the worst violators," he said in a statement, "taking legal action and working with partner agencies to ensure these landlords follow through.”

The agency also maintained that two sites in the report's top 10 list for hotels were no longer in use or were never used by DHS and that two cluster sites in the top 10 have already been identified for closure.

State Sen. Diane Savino said the homeless crisis New York City was going through now reminded her of what the city had gone through in the early 1990s, and she was concerned that it seemed to be making the same mistakes now that it was then.

"Housing people in substandard conditions in cluster site programs, housing people in hotels without access to clean running water or cooking facilities, all of those bad practices that were rejected and decried and we said we were never going to do again, well, here we are," she said.

"We've allowed the city for too long to mismanage this," she continued, "and now it's time for the state to step in."