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Stop Dumping Homeless Shelters in The Bronx, Assemblyman Demands in Lawsuit

By Kate Pastor | August 31, 2017 5:42pm
 A homeless man tries to stay warm in Midtown during the first arctic blast of the winter Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.
A homeless man tries to stay warm in Midtown during the first arctic blast of the winter Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

THE BRONX — The city must stop dumping homeless shelters, transitional homes and mental health treatment center in the borough, which already carries more than its share of the support services burden under city rules, a local assemblyman demanded in a lawsuit filed this week. 

The Bronx not only has the highest rates of homeless beds, at 831 per capita, but that the ratio has spiked by 14 percent since 1999 while ratios have declined in other boroughs, according to the suit filed by Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and several other plaintiffs in the Bronx Supreme Court.

The lawsuit comes at a time when many Bronxites are on edge as the city rolls out its plan to end cluster-site housing and homeless hotels by opening 90 shelters citywide to house indigent people in the communities they are from.

The City Charter's "Fair Share" provision requires an annual beds-to-population index to ensure equity  but has failed to complete one since 2003 and is placing “significantly more than the ‘fair share’ of residential facilities in the Borough of the Bronx” the suit says, “causing substantial damage to residents and businesses in that borough.”

According to the suit, there’s an even stricter standard that must be met before citing residential facilities in communities with a high ratio of residential beds to the population, including an explanation of whether alternative sites were considered in communities with lower ratios.

The suit asks that the court declare the city in violation of the rule and issue an injunction requiring the city to issue an annual index and not to allow any new facilities to be added to The Bronx without compliance with the Fair Share rules.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, Jaclyn Rothenberg, says the city is "reimagining distribution of our facilities in a more equitable way that also prioritizes the unique needs of each of our homeless neighbors."

She said that the city believes "the most fair and effective way to help homeless families get back on their feet is by offering them the opportunity to be sheltered closer to the essential anchors of life and communities they used to call home."