Dear Elected Official: Allow local input for a homeless shelter
Community input and due process are part of the building blocks of our local democracies. The redesignation of buildings without any community input in a neighborhood full of concerned residents, families and local businesses seems to negate their role in community development and is a top down power move that negates the vibrancy and importance of local residents.
We are writing as residents, neighbors, Business Owners, Parents and property owners in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. We have only just been informed that Housing Solutions USA, a social services organization intends – in partnership with the NYC Department of Homeless Services – to open a 170-bed homeless shelter for men at 165 West 9th Street, between Court Street & Hamilton Avenue, in Carroll Gardens. A ten unit condo building that was built in the 1990s.
We have also been told that this is being authorized under an “emergency contract” rule, which only requires 30 days community notice. Under emergency contract rules, there is no formal opportunity for public input, no input from local leaders' offices or the full City Council, and no vote.
Our concern is the lack of due process and community input for this venture before its arrival. We are demanding a process whereby we can meet with elected officials and understand how these decisions that affect our neighborhood have been made and we have the opportunity to be heard and take a role in this process. We are not opposing the establishment of shelters or homeless people in the neighborhood and understand the necessity to shelter those who have no roof over their head. But we want to know how the decision to use this building took place, and how it can be designated for 170 men without any community input? If it arrives under an emergency contract rule, how long does such a dictate last? At what point does the “emergency” run out?
The proposed Shelter is in a ten unit condo building that has remained vacant or partially occupied since its construction due to its poor quality of construction and other problems. It is located in a residential neighborhood of mostly two to three story houses. The neighborhood is a family area with small locally owned and run businesses. We prize diversity of all sorts. But why would this building not be allocated to homeless families with children who could benefit from the excellent public school for example? How did the number of 170 come to be allocated to a building that has ten units.
We cannot understand how the process of local democracy and neighborhood revitalization can take place if the DSS and city services can essentially redesignate the use of buildings with only 30 days notice to the very community where it plans to establish itself. Moreover the community deserve more explanation and input on a matter that has broad scale implications for its development.