City taxpayers are paying 70% of the cost of the Bloomberg Administration’s “hotels for the homeless” program! While the City enriches its former DHS Commissioner with a sweetheart deal – neighborhood quality of life is being compromised. Now that the cameras are off, where are the politicians who helped make this situation possible?
Our neighborhood continues to struggle under the impact of the huge increase of special-needs Department of Homeless Services clients at the West 95th Street shelters at 316 and 330 West 95th Street.
- Neighborhood In The Nineties is working on legal and political strategies to prevent the shelter from being awarded a five-year, no-bid $47 million city contract renewable to 2022. It also is seeking to fashion appropriate responses to the recent increase in crime, loitering, aggressive panhandling, noise, and strain on local services. If you see suspicious activity or are the victim of a crime, PLEASE CALL 911 and report it. The police can only help if they know about what has been going on.
- Neighborhood leaders and building captains met recently to discuss re-activating the guard patrol that Neighborhood In The Nineties ran in the 1990s. We are meeting with security firms to discuss price, area to be covered, and hours. A lot of work remains to make this happen, but it is clear that people feel the neighborhood has become less safe.
- More drug dealers have been seen between Riverside Drive and Broadway in the West 90s. Aggressive begging has become more prevalent on Broadway and nearby streets.
- Last week, a stranger stopped a 15-year-old girl, asked her for the time and then robbed of her iPhone. N90s urges parents to warn their children not to stop for strangers.
- The week before, local news outlets reported that a knife-wielding robber was following people into buildings all over the Upper West Side. One of his most recent armed robberies took place on West 95th and Columbus.
Though the Department of Homeless Services alleges to the public that the 95th Street “Freedom House” shelter will have no negative impact on the neighborhood, extensive problems directly attributable to its presence already have been occurring in recent months:
- The food pantry at the Advent Lutheran/Broadway United Churches has tripled the meals its serves daily from 50 to 150 since the shelter opened. Anyone who has spoken with homeless clients in Gristedes on West 96th Street has heard complaints that they cannot afford food in the neighborhood.
- Shelter clients who do not make the 10 PM curfew for returning to the building are drinking, urinating in public, and being rowdy all night in Riverside Park.
- Some neighborhood buildings now lock their outer vestibule doors late at night because of repeated attempts by shelter residents to gain access to the buildings and sleeping in vestibules and lobbies.
- Residents of buildings that adjoin the shelter, such as 310 West 95th Street and St. Louis Hall on West 94th Street, report that homeless residents are acting out, i.e., “screaming” out their windows all night long, putting boom boxes in windows at full volume and throwing garbage out the windows, both night and day.
- Longtime SRO tenants in the shelter buildings have been moving out since the shelter has been opened because their quality of life has been compromised, and people no longer feel safe. They not only have hygiene and behavior issues dealing with the homeless residents, but also report that there have been fights in the buildings among homeless residents.
- There have been a number of fires at the shelter, most recently April 24th, in debris on the premises.
These issues raise serious questions about how much longer this shelter can be run in this community, which has been compassionate in accepting more than its Fair Share of special needs residents, with 18 shelters in the 10025 ZIP code alone!
Aguila, the operator of the “Freedom House” organization, headquartered at 316 West 95th Street, and run by former DHS Commissioner Robert Hess, is undergoing the second audit in three years ordered by Comptroller Liu’s office. The previous audit uncovered over-billing. Aguila’s six-month emergency contract, under which it receives $3,710 a month for a typical 100-square-foot room with no kitchen or bath, expired on February 5th. If the $3,710 a month figure for a tiny room were not outrageous enough, consider that City taxpayers are footing 70% of the cost!
Aguila now is operating without a contract. Residents complain that the services for which Aguila is billing the city, like “job counseling services,” are abysmal.
Please keep up the pressure on our local politicians, keep writing and calling to let them know this 400-bed shelter has significant negative consequences for our community!
Thank you for your continued support of Neighborhood in the Nineties.