We are a little baffled. In a letter to Mayor de Blasio, dated March 14, 2016, it appears that Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks has outright ignored the Freedom House homeless shelter, as well as the area’s multitude of other homeless and related facilities, in his fair share analysis for the new homeless veterans’ facility on West 95th street. That’s right, he seems to have forgotten his department’s very own Freedom House, the facility directly NEXT DOOR to the veterans’ facility. Please see Commissioner Banks’ letter to the Mayor, as well as our response, below.
Text of HRA Commissioner Steven Bank’s Letter to Mayor de Blasio:
March 14, 2016
Re: Article 9, 95th Street Residence at 330 West 95th Street, NY, New York 10025
Dear Mayor de Blasio:
The Human Resources Administration (HRA) proposes to contract with Bailey House and the Harlem United Community AIDS Center, Inc. (“Harlem United”) to operate 173 units of affordable permanent housing and social services for formerly homeless veterans who are referred by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) for housing (one veteran per unit). Bailey House will provide services for 80 veterans and Harlem United will provide services for 93 veterans. Harlem United will also provide property management services. The facility is located at 330 West 95th Street on the south side of West 95th Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan Community District (CD) 7 (see attached Fair Share map with starred location). This building contains a total of 220 units, of which 47 units are currently occupied by existing rent-regulated tenants. HRA clients are expected to move in during the month of March 2016.
Bailey House and Harlem United will jointly provide thirty staff positions for this initiative. These staff include seven full time case managers, one administrative assistant, one contract analyst, one benefits specialist, one associate vice president for housing operations, one managing director, two program directors, one housing specialist, one vocational education counselor, and one recreation counselor. They will provide onsite intensive case management services to clients that will include referrals for health care, mental health, and other supportive services as well as care coordination with other providers (including the Department of Veterans Affairs). Another critical component of their work will focus on securing and maintaining entitlements and offering veterans meaningful employment and training opportunities. Individual and group counseling services and workshops geared toward strengthening adult daily living skills and in obtaining independent housing will also be offered.
To ensure that the facility provides decent and safe permanent housing, Harlem United will provide one coordinator of facilities maintenance, one maintenance supervisor, three maintenance workers and eight janitors for property maintenance. There will be no staff living on site.
In accordance with Article 9 of the Criteria for the Location of City Facilities, this statement records our consideration of section 4.1, 4.2, 6.51, and 6.52 and 6.53 of the Criteria pertaining to siting a citywide or regional facility.
Section 4.1(a) Compatibility of the facility with existing facilities and programs, both City and non-City, in the immediate vicinity of the site.
The 400-foot radius around 330 West 95th Street encompasses part of Manhattan CD 7.
According to data from the Department of City Planning’s “Selected Facilities and Program Sites in New York City, 2015,” there is one existing facility within a 400-foot radius of 330 West 95th Street The Association for the Help of Retarded Children. Nearby are the following schools: Emily Dickenson (PS 75) and MS 250 Westside Collaborative Middle School (see attached Fair Share Map).
Section 4.1(b) Extent to which neighborhood character would be adversely affected by a concentration of City and/or non-City facilities.
The population of the Upper West Side is diverse, with some residents exhibiting a great need for social, educational, health and supportive services. Manhattan Community Board (CB) 7 advocates for affordable permanent housing which includes rentals and homeownership (condominiums and cooperative apartments). The housing and programs at 330 West 95th Street are consistent with the City’s efforts to address the stated needs of this community.
Section 4.1 (c) Suitability of the site to provide cost-effective delivery of the intended services.
The building is an old law tenement, class A Single Room Occupancy (SRO) seven-story edifice with an elevator. The gross area/square footage (SF) of the building is 47,495 SF, of which 6,170 SF is existing tenant space, with the remaining 41,325 SF dedicated to this veterans’ housing program.
Each unit will be furnished with a bed and dresser. Units will share kitchen and bathroom facilities
The placement of units at one site promotes efficient service delivery. Renting also enables Harlem United to be free from the numerous costs entailed by ownership.
The site is well served by public transportation, shopping and services. The new tenants will be connected with the VA Medical Clinic at 55 West 125th Street, Harlem United’s clinics on Lenox Avenue at West 124th Street and on Lenox Avenue at West 133rd Street for primary care, dental and behavioral health services.
Section 4.1 (d) Consistency with the locational and other specifics for the facility identified in the Statement of Needs.
Though not specifically identified by site or sponsor, this type of project was contained in previous Citywide Statements of Needs for City Facilities: Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013, Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014, and Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015.
Section 4.1 (e) Consistency with any plan adopted pursuant to Section 197-a of the City Charter.
There has not been any plan adopted pursuant to Section 197-a of the City Charter regarding this site.
Section 4.2 (a) Consideration of the Mayor and Borough President’s Strategic Policy Statement and Community Board’s Statement of District Needs.
HRA provides cash assistance, public health insurance, SNAP benefits and other social services, which include the administration of case management, public assistance benefits and supportive services to the most vulnerable New York City residents. As cited in the Community Board 7/Manhattan – District Needs Statement – Fiscal Year 2016 (page 12), CB 7 stated the following: “Recognizing that existing regulations are not universally enforceable in the current economic environment, MCB7 would welcome new ways to create and preserve affordable single room housing units while also meeting the demand for budget hotels and other types of supportive housing in the neighborhood.”
Section 4.2 (b) Meeting, consultation or communication with the Community Board and/or Borough President.
On December 17, 2015, a meeting was held at Manhattan CB 7 to notify the community of this proposal. The meeting was attended by HRA, Harlem United, Bailey House, Mayor’s Office for Veterans Affairs, local elected officials, and other community groups. Harlem United and Bailey House will establish monthly Community Advisory Board meetings to discuss issues and concerns. Community residents will be invited and asked to participate.
Section 6.1 (a) Need for the facility or expansion.
There is a critical need to obtain appropriate permanent housing with supportive services for HRA’s clients. Facilities such as 330 West 95th Street provide permanent housing with an array of supportive services to enhance and maintain clients’ quality of life. Permanent housing developments with supportive services are also much more economical than commercial residences or shelters without adequate services.
Section 6.1 (b) Distribution of similar facilities throughout the City.
New York State Social Service Law and Regulations prohibit public disclosure of certain sites to maintain and ensure client confidentiality. As per recent HRA statistics, the following breakdown of similar type permanent, non-emergency supported housing accommodations for HRA clients is presented below:
Citywide Total = 4,561 units. By Borough: The Bronx = 1,673 units; Brooklyn = 1,274 units; Manhattan — 1,323 units; Queens = 246 units; and, Staten Island = 45 units.
Section 6.1 (c) Size of facility.
330 W. 95th Street in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan is an old law tenement, class A SRO seven-story edifice with an elevator. It contains 220 units, of which 173 units will be assigned to eligible HRA clients. The 173 HRA units are located throughout the seven-story building.
Each unit will share a kitchen and bathroom and will come furnished with a bed and dresser. The units, which will be assigned to eligible HRA clients, are located on all of the seven floors. All community and staff areas are located in the basement.
Section 6.1 (d) Adequacy of the streets and transit to handle the volume and frequency of the traffic generated by the facility.
330 West 95th Street is served by the following Manhattan bus lines: M96, M106, M116, and M104 at Broadway and West 96th Street. It is also accessible by the 1, 2, and 3 subway lines at the West 96th Street/Broadway station. Local streets are adequate to handle traffic. This facility will not generate an inordinate amount of traffic or transit utilization.
Section 6.51 Concentration of facilities providing similar services. See Section 6.1 (b)
Section 6.53 (a) Whether the facility, in combination with other similar City and non-City facilities within a defined area surrounding the site (approximately a half-mile radius, adjusted for significant physical boundaries), would have a significant cumulative negative impact on neighborhood character.
330 West 95th Street, within Manhattan CD 7, has no negative impact on the surrounding community. Facilities funded through HRA providing similar services are located throughout the City. When developed on a contract basis, the sponsor of the project locates the site and partners with appropriate governmental and nongovernmental entities to develop and maintain the property, as appropriate. For this project, HRA is providing the funding for the supportive and operational aspects of the project. The half-mile radius around 330 West 95th Street encompasses parts of Manhattan Community District 7. According to data from the Department of City Planning’s “Selected Facilities and Program Sites in New York City, 2015″, 125 facilities exist within a half-mile radius of 330 West 95th Street (see attached Fair Share Summary).
Section 6.53 (b) Whether the site is well located for efficient service delivery. See section 4.1 (c).
Section 6.53 Whether any alternative sites actively considered by the sponsoring
agency or identified pursuant to Section 204 (f) of the City Charter which are in
community districts with lower ratios of residential community beds to population than the Citywide average would add significantly to the cost of constructing or operating the facility or would impair service delivery.
No alternative sites were proposed pursuant to Section 204 (f) of the City Charter.
This information indicates our compliance in the siting of this facility with the Fair Share Criteria promulgated by the City Planning Commission. Based upon these criteria, the siting of 330 West 95th Street is appropriate and does not unduly impact upon the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan.
Honorable Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
Honorable Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the New York City Council Honorable Letitia James, Public Advocate for the City of New York Honorable Gale Brewer, President, Borough of Manhattan
Honorable Helen Rosenthal , Member, City Council, District 6 Honorable Adriano Espaillat, New York State Senator, District 31
Honorable Daniel O’Donnell, New York State Assembly Member, District 69 Honorable Jerrold Nadler, United States Congressman, District 10
Carl Weisbrod, Director, Department of City Planning
Elizabeth R. Caputo, Chair, Manhattan Community Board 7
Penny Ryan, District Manager, Manhattan Community Board 7
Neighborhood in the Nineties RESPONSE:
8 May 2016
Honorable Bill de Blasio
Mayor of the City of New York
New York, New York 10007
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
Re: Reply and correction to the “Article 9, 95th Street residence at 330 West 95th Street, New York, NY 10025” by HRA Commissioner Steven Banks, 14 March 2016.
In October 2012, I had the honor of introducing you as “the City’s next Mayor” at Neighborhood In The Nineties’ Town Hall at Symphony Space. N90s is writing to you now because Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks issued the above referenced Article 9 of the Criteria for the Location of City Facilities statement replete with misstatements and outright falsehoods. It appears intended to create the impression that the Upper West Side has virtually no facilities that count toward the Fair Share Criteria, including Section 6.53, among others.
Commissioner Banks’s Article 9 letter (referenced above) defies procedures mandated under the City Charter. The Upper West Side community is concerned about the implications of City siting policy based on such a false and misleading document. We are alarmed that your Administration still conducts business with a controversial landlord and campaign contributor. How could HRA ignore its own 200-person adult shelter in the adjoining building, same owners? We hope that the issuance of a misleading document is not a cynical, tone deaf effort to help a contributor.
Neighborhood In The Nineties supports the use of 330 West 95th Street as permanent housing for carefully screened veterans with low-level PTSD. We endeavor to make this a better facility. This includes protecting the building’s existing SRO tenant population against conflicts, and the safety of the surrounding neighborhood.
We seek a completely rewritten, accurate, honest Article 9 Fair Share document for this project. Such a document must do fair and careful research, and must be able to stand to the Community Board’s approval as a valid reflection of this community’s share of the homeless and special needs burden. Previous City FSA documents completely contradict Banks’s “effort.”
Neighborhood In The Nineties seeks a timetable for the closing of Freedom House, 316 West 95th Street, next door to 330 West 95th Street. In light of the additional burden on this neighborhood, especially the people of 95th Street and the affected SRO tenants, that shelter, a community safety burden and an ill-gotten political gain, should be closed as soon as possible.
We would appreciate a prompt, direct response to this community grievance.
Neighborhood In The Nineties
310 West 94 Street
New York, NY 10025
Community Response To Article 9 Fair Share Letter by HRA Commissioner Banks
Summary of Article 9 issues raised by HRA Commissioner Banks for 330 West 95th Street:
- Banks’s Article 9 letter quotes City Department of Planning data that completely ignores:
- Feb. 2013 DHS’ Fair Share Analysis lists many facilities near 330 W. 95th St.
- 200-person DHS-HRA Freedom House shelter in adjoining property (316 West 95th St) owned by the same landlord as adjoining 330 West 95thSt.
- 330 West 95th St. was part of Freedom House along with 316 W. 95 St.
- 6 City or private facilities serving homeless within 400 feet of 330 W. 95th St.
- 24 other City or private homeless facilities within ½ mile of 330 West 95th St.
- Section 204f of Fair Share Criteria, requiring consideration of other sites – no alternative sites were considered, a mandate upheld by State Supreme Court
- Document ignores landlords’ controversial record. Here are two key media articles:
Some additional points that must be answered in the Banks’s Article 9 document:
Upper West Side Bears An Unfair Share
The Upper West Side is already inundated with facilities that serve the homeless, no more so than the northern portion of Community District 7. A quick review of the impact of the horrible conditions caused by Freedom House alone:
- Drug dealing by shelter residents that has fanned out to surrounding blocks
- Aggressive panhandling rise in Riverside Park, Broadway and West End
- Residents acting out – a TV set hurled out the window just missed a dog walker and urine filled water bottles have been hurled out windows at passersby
- Fighting in the building that disturbs SRO tenants and neighboring buildings
- Crime reports including a near-fatal stabbing by a visitor at a neighboring property
- Garbage hurled out windows, which is then left to feed rats and mice
- Residents sleeping in Riverside Park and Joan of Arc Island overnight
NEIGHBORHOOD IMPACT REVIEW Section 4.1(b):
“Extent to which neighborhood character would be adversely affected by a concentration of City and/or non-City facilities,” the Commissioner refers to the Upper West Side as having a “diverse population…with some residents exhibiting a great need for social, educational, health and supportive services.” But, Commissioner Banks doesn’t explain why! Too many City “clients” are relocated to the Upper West Side, because of pay-to-play politics, and expediency, rather than need.
While Community Board District 7 has twenty times the number of supportive housing units in CB8 (Upper East Side), the area near the veterans facility on 330 West 95th St. has 24 residential special needs housing and shelter buildings. As the City adds more facilities, it greatly reduced police staffing at the 24th Precinct.
Community District 7 – Unfair Share of Facilities Near 330 W. 95th:
Within 400 feet of 330 West 95th ST:
- Freedom House adult family shelter next door, 316 West 95th ST (HRA-DHS)
- St. Louis 319 West 94th ST (HPD, HRA/DHS adjacent to “Freedom House” shelter)
- Devon 308 West 94th ST (emergency homeless shelter)
- 311 West 94th ST Section 8 Subsidized Housing
- Camden 206 West 95th ST (HRA)**
- Yale 316 West 97th ST (HRA/DHS-HPD)
- Rose Residence 305 West 97 ST (HRA)
Within ½ mile of 330 West 95th ST:
- Narragansett 2508 Broadway (between 93rd and 94th)
- The Senate 206 West 92nd ST (near Broadway)
- Westbourne Hotel, WEA & 105th ST (HPD)
- Regency 2720 Broadway (DHS) 104th ST
- Frant Hotel shelter 211 West 101st ST DHS
- Trinity Place Shelter 164 West 100th ST
- 2688 Broadway Malibu 101st ST
- 2643 Broadway (DHS-HPD) 100th ST
- 2612 Broadway Hunter’s Moon (DHS-HPD) 100th ST
- Bilander Hall 260 West 99th ST (DHS-HPD)
- Congregation Ansche Chesed HOMELESS SHELTER West End Av & 99th ST
- Metro New York Developmentally Disabled 260 West 98th ST
- Post-Graduate Center Residence 201 West 98th ST
- Project Life 125 West 96th ST (NYSDMH)
- Brandon House 340 West 85th ST (VOA)
- Capitol Hall 166 West 87th ST (HRA)
- Euclid Hall 2345 Broadway at 86th (HRA)
- St. Paul and St. Andrew Homeless Shelter West End Ave & 87th ST
Within ½ mile destination mental health, drug and alcohol treatment facilities:
- SPOP Mental Health 188 West 88th ST
- Goddard Riverside Mental Health 264 West 91st ST
- SPOP Mental Health 302 West 91st ST
- Post-Graduate Child and Adolescent Clinic 130 West 97th ST
- Psychosocial Club 264 West 87 ST
- Ryan Center Annex 801 Amsterdam Ave at 98th ST
- Ryan Center 110 West 97th ST
Food pantries and soup kitchens for the poor and homeless within ½ mile:
- Goddard Soup Kitchen 264 West 87th ST
- West Side Campaign Against Hunger 263 West 86th ST
- Advent Lutheran/Broadway United Food Pantry Broadway at 93rd ST
- Franciscan Holy Name Food Pantry 207 West 96th ST
PLEASE NOTE: *There is no facility for the Association For The Help of Retarded Children in our area!
**The Camden is in litigation with a holdover tenant following a murder in the building.
Banks Ignores Building Next Door and His Own Agency’s Fair Share Report
The DHS Fair Share Analysis released in February 2013 cites more than two dozen facilities that house the homeless and special needs patients within a half mile of the facility run by DHS, HRA and/or HPD. While this document relied on outdated 2010 information, and overlooked some facilities, it was a far more credible document than the Banks Article 9 statement.
The City Charter Fair Share Criteria has the force of law, which Mr. Banks’s Article 9 statement flouts. In Ocean Hill Residents Ass’n. v. City of New York, 33 Misc 3d 1230(A) (Supreme Court Kings Co. 2011), the Court upheld a community group’s challenge to the City’s use of the RFP procedure to minimize its obligations to conduct a proper fair share assessment when placing another homeless shelter in the neighborhood of Ocean Hill.
Justice Saitta wrote:
“Article 9.1 of the Fair Share Criteria requires the City to articulate how they have applied the Criteria in making their siting decision and to state the reasons for any inconsistencies between the Criteria and the siting
decision. The City is given discretion as to what weight it gives particular criteria in a given case and not all of the criteria have to be met. However, implicit in requirements of the Criteria is that siting must be based on an honest analysis of the Criteria, and that any departure from the Criteria must have a rational basis.
For example, it may be that there are no feasible alternate sites in areas with a lower bed to population ratio, for the proposed shelter. However, the City’s obligation is to show that it looked at alternate sites and that its determination that there were no suitable alternate sites or that the proposed site was the most suitable in light of all of the Criteria, had a rational and factual basis.”
We ask, Does this veterans’ program justify violating the law?
Was the best we can do for PTSD veterans is to place them in an SRO with micro rooms with no bathrooms, and make their connection to the only vital services they will receive offsite via a long bus ride to another neighborhood? We’ll never know! We can certainly identify neighborhoods that are not doing their fair share to help those in need. We do our fair share, and more!
While we support the veterans’ facility, we demand the closing of Freedom House to reduce our community’s unfair burden. HRA may pretend not to know about its existence, but our neighborhood has suffered at the hands of a poorly run facility.
The Banks’s Article 9 should be totally voided and replaced by an unbiased, properly researched letter that fulfills its stated purpose truthfully and follows the law.