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$32M Contract for Controversial Crown Heights Shelter Questioned by Locals

 This building on Bergen Street between New York and Brooklyn avenues in Crown Heights will become a shelter for 106 homeless men next month, the city said.
This building on Bergen Street between New York and Brooklyn avenues in Crown Heights will become a shelter for 106 homeless men next month, the city said.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

MANHATTAN — Four residents concerned about a controversial homeless shelter in Crown Heights trekked to Lower Manhattan on Thursday morning to ask hard questions at a public meeting about the facility's proposed $32 million contract, which can only be viewed at a 4 World Trade Center office by appointment.

In Crown Heights, large crowds of people have showed up at community meetings and court hearings about the proposed shelter to argue their neighborhood has more than its fair share of such facilities.

On Thursday, some of those locals grilled officials about a lack of details in the draft five-year contract between the city and operator CORE Services at the 104-bed men’s shelter, planned to open at 1173 Bergen St. if it survives a court challenge.

Specifically, residents took issue with the fact that the nearly 100-page draft contract does not specify what kind of residents would be housed there although CORE has repeatedly said the facility would house only single men over the age of 62.

“The city has represented … that they would not be sex offenders, that they would not be mentally ill and they would not have substance abuse problems. None of that is in the contract. It is silent on that,” said J. Alexander Lawrence, one of four Bergen Street residents who gave testimony at the public contract hearing on Reade Street in Manhattan on Thursday.

They also expressed concerns about a lack of a detailed plan for security at the shelter and how much of the $32 million spent by the city over five years would go to the site’s owner, who was recently named in a $20 million fraud lawsuit in Brooklyn.

"CORE seems to consistently ... never share information and I think it's extremely concerning that the city would pay $32 million of our tax dollars to CORE Services," said Katharine Perko, another neighbor of the proposed shelter.

The type of clients in the facility are not specified in the draft contract reviewed by DNAinfo New York and neither are specifics of how the $32 million will be spent. However, the contract does address security by requiring the operator conduct surveillance of the ground and facility, monitor residents to “identify abrupt or progressive changes in behavior” and enforce a 10 p.m. curfew, among other things, the draft said.

Details about the facility's population type, a detailed budget and a comprehensive security plan will be added to a final draft of the contract, according to the Department of Homeless Services.

A full security plan must be submitted to DHS within 10 days of the final registration of the contract, which could take up to two or three months, city staff said.

DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said, by rule, the city must consider all comments made at the public contract hearing when proceeding with the draft of the agreement and also encouraged residents to join a Community Advisory Board to be formed for the shelter to "address any concerns as soon as they arise."

"We remain committed to opening this site so that over 100 seniors can be sheltered closer to the community they called home and to working with community members as we proceed to ensure our clients receive a warm welcome," he said in a statement.

It’s unclear when the homeless shelter — one of the first in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 90 new shelters under an overhaul of the DHS — will open. The facility has been stalled three times by Brooklyn judges enforcing a temporary restraining order brought on by a lawsuit from residents suing to keep the shelter off their block.

The lawsuit is set to return to court next week after a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge urged the city and attorneys representing residents to meet and discuss the case “with the hope and belief that something good can come of the negotiations,” she said in court Wednesday.

The mayor's DHS plan aims to reduce the city's record-high homeless population, currently about 60,000 peoople, by 2,500 over the next five years and close all cluster and hotel shelter sites citywide.