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Deny Stagg Lies: Affordable Housing Bait and Switch in the Bronx

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Classic story of the bait and switch.

The community was excited to hear about a brand new, luxury, and affordable housing complex coming to our neighborhood of Kingsbridge/Riverdale in the Bronx. All of our community members deeply care about the betterment of Broadway, a major commercial street. New shopping centers were built, shops began upgrading their storefronts, and we were looking into the future with bright, albeit naive eyes.

In the wake of the January 4, 2016 horrendous murder of Adam Garcia, the night-shift manager at the McDonalds on Broadway by homeless man Rafael Gonzalez. We would have assumed our neighbor would have been safe since the McDonalds is right next to the 50th precinct on 236th street. Mr. Garcia leaves behind a toddler son and his mother.

As the community recovered from the shock of this tragedy, a new apartment building was breaking ground. Spouting promises of affordable housing and commerce to add to the community. Mark Stagg himself has commented to the Riverdale Press and other local news sites that it would be "Market Rate." Even quoted as saying, “Our model is that we provide market-rate apartments for working-class people. The nurses, nurses’ aides, firemen, policemen making $40,000 to $80,000. Those people need a place to live.” The Riverdale Press asked him about the development being used for homeless and he relplied, “The whole bait-and-switch thing is preposterous. The units are going to be market-rate units.”

Profiting from Federal, State and City Tax Dollars

Mark Stagg has said on many occasions that it will be affordable housing to the Bronx City Council under the guise of filing a 421 a tax abatement, which provides a 25-year tax break when a developer dedicates 20% of units in a building to affordable housing. He was asked a number of times by the city council, when requested if this is going to be a homeless shelter, and he denied it every time over the course of months, while reaching out to the PRAXIS Housing Initiatives group, as well as the Department of Homeless services, to procure a contract ensuring that not only the Federal government, but State and City Government would pay a total of $20,000 per person annually to PRAXIS for the lease. A lot more than Mark Stagg was going to charge annually for each Studio or 1-bedroom unit, which was promoted as $1,300-1,350 a month ($16,200 annually, $1,344,600 for the entire building's rent collection, without maintenance and parking fees). DHS and PRAXIS tell the community that it will be strictly for families, maximizing their profits since their estimate of homeless families are 3.5 people. By that math, we have the site taking in $70,000 per unit. An additional tax-payer funded profit of $53,800 per unit. Multiply this by the 83 units, PRAXIS makes an annual profit of $4,465,400, three times the revenue from tax dollars for what they call themselves a "not-for-profit."

The Stagg Corporation has been accepting applications from many existing community members, or people that work in the area, in particular those who work in the Stop & Shop supermarket across the road. None of which any of these applicants were informed of this new announcement.

Now, let’s talk about PRAXIS and DHS.

PRAXIS Housing Initiative is NYC’s largest provider of transitional housing to homeless people with HIV/AIDS and is one the city’s lowest cost/highest service to housing providers.

To be placed in a PRAXIS facility you must be HIV+, a single man or woman, or in HASA emergency housing placement only. Their sites offer primary medical care, mental health and substance abuse counseling. Their "Housing Portfolio" section states the following, "Praxis Housing Initiatives Inc., has been providing housing and case management to chronically homeless persons living with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, physical disabilities, addiction, mental illness, domestic violence histories and re-entry population (formerly incarcerated)."
In other words:  Consistently homeless, drug-addicted, mentally-ill, criminals coming in and out and back in to our up and coming neighborhood.

The DHS swears to us that there will be families living in this facility. (We can't call it an apartment building anymore.) They will employ 35 security officers to patrol the building to make sure the people inside the building are safe. Perhaps 3 officers on-shift at all times, or so they tell us.

Since this will be a "transitional facility" and they are working exclusively with PRAXIS and Stagg, we cannot justify their claims that the building will help families in the community. If they are truly are studios to 1-bedroom apartments in this building, the families (at an average of 3.5 people per family) the apartments will be tight living quarters for families already living in "cluster" sites.

The DHS and PRAXIS are only "open to suggestion" for the kinds of businesses they can put in the storefront area of the facility, but not to moving it anywhere else, or renovating their existing facilities.

Both organizations confirmed that Mark Stagg approached them about the project in January 2017 as well as drafting contracts in April 2017. None of these documents have been made public; they don't want us to see what is really happening here. These contracts are still pending, and need to be reviewed. 

The Kingsbridge/Riverdale/Van Courtlandt Park residents are compassionate people that care about the safety of its community members. We are outraged, in shock and awe, as well as feel betrayed by not only corporate lies, political deceit and gain, but feel as if this is a gateway back into the times of "The Bronx is Burning" when the Bronx experienced the Crack epidemic of the 1970's. Now, with Heroin and opiate addiction on the rise, we are concerned about drugs and violence being brought into our quiet productive, harmonious community.

We strongly recommend that the DHS find another resolution to build or renovate an existing facility, in a truthful and communicative way so that not only the Bronx but other boroughs, can come to an honest and real agreement for safe communities and effective housing for homeless families that are not just transitional, but a permanent residence to be so the homeless population can be included and accepted into the larger part of the New York City Community.

We do not condone this deceitful behavior, and we will continue to strive and fight for truth.

We thank you for your support.


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