“ I Say No Deal! “ - Jeffery Dinowitz
Oct 16, 2021 —
Read this supporting message from Jeffery Dinowitz and his strong opposition to the proposed NY City plan to build a Men’s Homeless Shelter in our community:
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As you may have heard, the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is planning to build a new homeless shelter at 6661 Broadway. They plan to open this shelter by the end of 2023.
Despite my longtime work to improve housing and to prevent homelessness, I am unable to support this proposal. In fact, I strongly oppose it. It is poorly thought out, and I believe will cause many problems in a neighborhood of hardworking people who, in many cases, have invested everything in their homes or apartments.
I had a call with the Deputy Commissioner of DHS earlier this week, and there were many concerns that we raised and that emerged from this conversation. These types of conversations often are riddled with bureaucratic doublespeak on the side of proponents and unfortunate stereotypes on the side of opponents. I have always striven to make fact-based decisions, and that is what I have done with regard to the proposal for 6661 Broadway.
Here are some facts:
FACT: When a shelter was first proposed at Broadway and West 237th Street, we were told by the Administration that our Community Board 8 was not doing its share to house people who became homeless from CB 8. Given the fact that there are at least 200 people residing at this family shelter, surely we are doing our share to address homelessness in the City. But now the Administration has moved the goal post instead saying “but we don’t have our share of single men.”
FACT. Two of the largest shelters in my district, both for single men, have had negative impacts on the community. The men’s shelter at 4380 Bronx Boulevard was where the Director, Ana Charle, was viciously stalked, sexually assaulted and murdered outside the shelter by a former resident with a violent criminal history including a conviction for attempted murder. It was only after that tragedy that the City heeded our call for security. And the men’s shelter at 3600 Jerome Avenue has been a constant source of countless complaints by neighborhood residents and merchants.
FACT: At the time of the murder at the Bronx Blvd. shelter, as many as 40% of the residents were convicted sex offenders according to information we were given at the time. The community was never informed of the composition of the population when the City came to it and presented their plans for the shelter.
FACT: According to the Administration there can be no guarantees that this shelter wouldn’t have a similar population. While I absolutely understand that unhoused people who are served by DHS are human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and morality, the Administration absolutely must understand that many of the fears and worries expressed by local residents are legitimate and must be taken seriously by the bureaucrats making decisions about what happens to our community.
FACT: According to the Administration there can be no guarantee that the various services needed by the residents will be available 24/7 or available on site.
FACT: According to the Administration there will be 4-6 men in each room (this number was reduced from 8-10 men per room between the time I spoke with the Administration on Tuesday morning and the time of the Community Board 8 committee meeting on Wednesday evening), which could include men with mental health issues, men who are substance users and yes – possibly convicted sex offenders. I certainly care deeply about people with mental health or substance use issues, but it would be misleading to say that such a grouping of even 4 to 6 men would be problem free. Housing 4 to 6 men, some of whom have these serious issues, together in one room is undignified anywhere - let alone in a facility that does not have all of the social services, and substance abuse and mental health services on site. Those who support building a homeless shelter for 130 men at 6661 Broadway will say this is about being compassionate. I believe this plan is the opposite of compassionate.
FACT: According to the Deputy Commissioner, the cost of running this shelter is $137.74 per day per resident. This comes to $6.5 million per year to run a shelter for 130 people.
FACT: The CEO of AACPI, Matthew Okebiyi, receives an annual salary of well in excess of a half a million dollars a year (described by the New York Times here). For an organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate, he is most fortunate.
I believe no one in the entire legislature has been more successful in the past two years in helping to prevent homelessness than I have been. Two of the planks in the historic 2019 omnibus bill, the Housing Stability and Tenant Protect Act was based on my bills. The 2020 Tenant Safe Harbor Act that I authored in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and was the main assembly sponsor of prevented thousands of evictions. And I authored and was the main assembly sponsor of the Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium and its two extensions that have been in effect for all of this year through January 15 of next year. There is no question that my legislation prevented the evictions of thousands and probably tens of thousands of people. A large number of them would have become homeless.
It wasn’t the City administration or DHS that did this. It was me and my colleagues, representing what you as New Yorkers wanted the government to do to address the basic human need of housing. We also passed a state budget that provided nearly $3 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help keep people at home as well as $2.1 billion for the Excluded Workers Fund. We did our job!
Proposals for homeless shelters are always controversial. It’s important that we work as one neighborhood, one community to address this. It find it disheartening that a very small number of the opponents of this shelter have selfishly said the shelter should be built in someone else’s neighborhood. Not very neighborly. I have no patience for this kind of divisiveness. I have several neighborhoods in my district and I fight for all of them.
We cannot allow the Administration’s divide-and-conquer PR strategy to work. We must make sure that our concerns about this plan remain front and center in the conversation.
I want to conclude by saying that it is my belief and probably that of most people that the entire shelter system has been a miserable failure. This administration didn’t create the homelessness crisis. It was around long before this mayor. But I fail to see significant improvements. And now our community is being asked to shoulder an additional burden because of this failure. This very expensive shelter should never be built. I stand with my neighbors and oppose it.
Some of you have written to me or called my office to ask about what the next steps are. Although the City has a lot of latitude to move forward with this project whether or not our community wants them to, it is important to note that the proposed shelter has not even been built yet. That will require permits and approvals from the Department of Buildings as well as the Fire Department of New York. The NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance also will have to sign off on the shelter before it can open.
If you are looking for ways to make your voices heard, here are a few ways that you might consider:
• Bronx Community Board 8 will have at least two more community meetings on this subject in November through their Land Use Committee and Health, Hospitals, and Social Services Committee. Please keep an eye out for information about those dates. I do not believe they have finalized the November meeting calendar at this time, but you can contact them to ask to be put on their mailing list so they will email you when those dates are announced: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/bronxcb8/about/contact.page
• Contact the Department of Homeless Services. Their main number is 212-361-8000and you can send an email to the Commissioner's Office using this webform: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/mail/html/maildhs.html I believe it is important to ask them about how they can consider housing 4-6 grown adult men in the same room a dignified, compassionate way to help people in need. I believe it is also important to ask about the issues raised in a recent New York Times article about corruption and fraud among shelter operators, given that the CEO of the operator they intend to use at 6661 Broadway is or was under investigation for having his brother serving as the chief finance officer and his sister-in-law serving on the board. Although the city directed AAPCI to fire the brother and restructure, his brother (Raymond Okebiyi) is still listed as the Chief Financial Officer on the AAPCI website (as of October 15, 2021
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