N90s participated in a series of meetings, thanks to C.M. Rosenthal and Community Board 7, this Spring and Summer which gave the community a chance to weigh in on the impact of the multiple facilities serving the homeless in our beautiful West 90s neighborhood. Sadly, Mayoral announcements aside, the forecast is for more of the same. The City is still approaching hotel operators to add more shelters here, doubling down on a failed strategy. With your support via calls and emails, we can hope to improve problem facilities like Freedom House. Read on!
N90s Leader Blasts Mayor’s Homeless Plan
“The Mayor points to lower arrests and says the streets are safer. He needs a reality check. A walk down Broadway, unaccompanied by police guards, would suffice. Low-level drug dealers are not being arrested the way they used to be. Police are powerless to stop aggressive panhandlers.” — Aaron Biller, president, Neighborhood In The Nineties
We published the above comments in an N90s newsletter column 25 years ago, when David Dinkins was mayor! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
Has anything changed at all since 1992?
Read: “Same Old Homeless Policy” by Stephen Eide.
What has changed is that we now have two Community Advisory Boards (CAB), one for the Freedom House homeless shelter; the other is for the veterans’ residence on the 300 block of West 95th Street.
Through the efforts of Community Board 7 and Council Member Helen Rosenthal, our N90s neighbors have regular meetings with the facility operators, which gives us the opportunity to hold the operators accountable with City Social Services executives, elected officials, NYPD and members of the Community Board present.
Recent meetings with Freedom House, run by Aguila, revealed that during a 45 day period, 1 May to 15 June 2017, there were 81 emergency 911 calls at the shelter (316 West 95). When a City Homeless representative try to blame the calls on “asthma,” the Police confirmed that most 911 calls were the result of violent conflicts and domestic disputes between residents.
By comparison, the veterans’ residence, operated jointly by Bailey House and Harlem United, in a shorter time span, the month of June, had just four 911 calls, including one medical emergency. While the residence was the scene of a double stabbing several months ago, the two agencies have done a good job of helping the veterans work through conflicts. Not only do all residents (legacy SRO tenants not included) sign a contract when they join the residence, violent offenders and drug dealers may be asked to leave.
A Bailey House executive recently experienced the difference between the vets’ building and the shelter when he was doused with a liquid thrown out of the shelter, as he passed by on 95th Street. He is lucky, considering that a few years ago, a tv set was hurled out the window, and one resident has been known to fill water bottles with urine and drop them out the window.
While the City reached agreement this Spring with Helen Rosenthal to replace Aguila as the homeless shelter operator, they do not plan to have a new operator until June 2018, due to officials’ insistence on honoring a contract with a vendor running a disaster.
For the record, in 2006, the City opened the Apple shelter on 94th Street. It lasted nine months after community protests led by N90s shut it down with the help of then Borough President Scott Stringer. Apple had the same type of homeless population, “adult family.” It didn’t work then under a different vendor, Volunteers of America. The City doubled down on its failing strategy by bringing the same population to a school block with Freedom House, in 2012, visited a disaster on our neighborhood, throwing children and quality of life under the school bus. N90s was able to use a lawsuit to force the City to cut this shelter in half, from 400 to 200.
Freedom House has been blamed for the rise in drug-dealing and violence in our community during its five years of operation. N90s believes that the City should replace Aguila immediately and find an interim operator for the shelter, or just close it outright, since adult family clients, without appropriate screening, without robust social services and employment training are a failure.
The fact is the area around every school is a drug free zone for 1,000 feet in any direction. With the other nearby schools — Twin Parks Montessori, WS Montessori, Goddard, Ideal, La Escuelita, and more, there is no place for drug dealing in the West 90s. That the City fails to screen out dealers in their facilities on 95th or the St. Louis /Rustin on 94th, makes the case to close the shelter outright more compelling. Police staffing at the 24th Precinct (100+), is less than half its needed levels.
We urge our readers to demand the closing of Freedom House
A July 22nd New York Times article (see NYT neighborhood map at top) proves what we have said for years: we are oversaturated with facilities, while other neighborhoods, including those who produce more homeless people than they house are getting a free ride. (visit the URL – the NYT map is much sharper)
Help us help our neighborhood!
Call Council Member Rosenthal, 212.873.0282, X200, Or write an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask Helen why we can’t the de Blasio Administration to close the Freedom House shelter or get a new vendor NOW! Why are taxpayer dollars being wasted, along with the lives of shelter residents and SRO tenants.
Also contact Michael Stinson, Borough Director – Manhattan, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, cell: 917-597-6807. Ask them why the Mayor is still offering new contracts for shelters in SRO hotels, which violates his newly announced homeless policy…and why Mr. Stringer is signing these contracts which result in poorly run shelters.
Here are some important articles about NYC homeless policy:
DeBlasio Unveils Plan For 90 More Shelters:
“Fight Looms as Bill de Blasio Plans to Seek 90 New Homeless Shelters“
“City Council released a report on a legislative package aimed at overhauling the city’s Fair Share law, which is supposed to bring more parity to the way public facilities, including homeless shelters, are distributed throughout the city. The report found that homeless shelters, drug and mental treatment centers and foster care group homes were concentrated in 10 community districts, with an average of 21.7 beds per 1,000 residents in those districts, a balance five times the city average; that would change if legislation restricting such clustering is adopted.”
Police Clear Out Homeless From Subway For De Blasio Photo Op:
Violence In Homeless Shelters On The Rise:
“Brawler bites off finger of foe who then pounds him into extremely critical condition at Brooklyn men’s shelter“