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De Blasio's Shelter Plan Ignites Fears Across The Bronx

By Kate Pastor | August 10, 2017 9:45am

THE BRONX — Distrust in the lack of transparency about the mayor's proposed shelter plan has put many borough residents on edge.

Some have become so hyper-vigilant they have even mounted resistance to development projects that have nothing to do with the homeless.

When commercial tenants of 2800 Bruckner Boulevard in Throggs Neck got 30-day notices asking them to move out just as mattresses, cabinets and other trappings of residential life appeared in the building's parking lot, rumors swirled.

Neighborhood residents speculated that the building was slated to be next of the city's 90 new homeless shelters, even though that turned out not to be the case.

“It certainly took us days to let people know that this was not a homeless shelter," said Jimmy Vacca, the Councilman for the area.

"People immediately assumed this was Mayor de Blasio putting in a homeless shelter," he said. 

The rollout of the city's shelter plan, and the secrecy that surrounds it has irked many homeowners. Homeless services officials have not always been forthcoming about where the new facilities will go. At least two of the five homes that have already opened under the mayor's 90-shelter plan are in The Bronx. Three more are slated for the borough.

The Department of Homeless Services said it's opening shelters so that people can be housed in the communities they are from and has also committed to ending its cluster-site program and use of hotels, including many in The Bronx, in the same areas where shelters are coming on-line.

For the 17 years the city has been using cluster sites, the majority have been located in The Bronx, according to the DHS.

Since January 2016, when DHS was using as many as 3,600 cluster apartments citywide, the department has closed more than 1,000 units, it says, representing a 28 percent reduction. Of those that have closed, more than 600 have been in the Bronx.

In their place, the city has already opened 2346 Prospect Ave., a mixed affordable housing and shelter project with 32 shelter apartments for families with children and a small number of affordable apartments and Marsha’s House, an approximately 90-bed shelter for LGBTQ people at 480 E. 185th St., both in Belmont.

DHS also announced a shelter at 233 Landing Rd. in University Heights, which will contain affordable apartments, the majority of them for people who are formerly homeless, as well as 200 apartments for employed and employable homeless men.

It also plans to open a shelter in Soundview, at 1792 Lafayette Ave., that will provide 44 apartments to families with children and a new 83-apartment shelter is slated for Kingsbridge, at 5731 Broadway, for families with children.

The building in Throggs Neck, however, is not part of the city's shelter plan, DHS confirmed, and Vacca has been posting video messages on Facebook trying to quell some fears about the location.

 

City Councilman Andy King, however, appeared to ignite them recently, when he organized a protest against the same Stagg Group behind the shelter coming to Broadway, but for a building that already houses formerly homeless people at 3677 White Plains Road, in Wakefield. 

The community was notified of the project a year ago before anyone moved in, according the DHS. The District Manager of Community Board 12, George Torres, said that the facility was exactly the kind of permanent housing the community board has long advocated (as opposed to transitional housing). He said he'd heard of no complaints from neighborhood residents through the community board office.

Still, King focused on the fact that its residents were “transitioning out of the shelter system” and said that quality of life concerns they brought with them, like public drug use, had gotten worse over the summer months.

“It’s only natural that people want to know and they want clarity,” Councilmember Vacca said about his constituents' fears.