Say NO to The Alexander Shelter!:
Caught Red-handed! City HRA Submits Same Contract
Public Input at 1st Hearing Ignored Completely About Firetrap Building, Tenant Impact, and Other Shelters. 2nd Hearing On Same Contract!!
“…the Alexander is best suited for working families in need of cheap housing.” -Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President in the NYTimes of November 30, 2011, back when she was our City Council Member. Unfortunately, her successor, Helen Rosenthal, is supporting a tone deaf plan to put three shelters on one City block. She recently registered to run for citywide office in 2021. Perhaps before she runs, Rosenthal needs to walk her district at night to understand her own district’s safety issues firsthand.
Our neighbors packed a hearing room near City Hall last month, united in opposition to a proposal for a new shelter to replace Freedom House.
Last week, fours weeks after we testified, the City tried to sneak through the very same contract at the very same City Contract Hearing. They didn’t change a comma!
We upped our game! We sent a lawyer to review the contract right before the second hearing. Not one comma was changed. We have retained Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C., to protect our interests in case we need a legal response to the City’s sleight of hand.
We ask that you join your neighbors this coming Tuesday, December 4th, 6:30 PM to speak out before the Community Board meeting at Mount Sinai Hospital West (AKA Roosevelt Hospital), 1000 Tenth Avenue (Amsterdam Ave. at 59th St).
It is important that you attend. You can speak for 60 seconds, cede your time to a neighbor, or stand in unison with your neighbors to tell the government and our community that this shelter is a block-busting proposal that will hurt our neighborhood.
Decisions critical to the future of the neighborhood are being made without community input, despite promises to the contrary by City officials.
Our Council Member, Helen Rosenthal is supporting a callous, tone deaf decision to place a third shelter on the 300 block of West 94th Street. This decision comes despite a 2016 homelessness report by Mayor de Blasio which promises that shelters will have “a more equitable distribution across the five boroughs.”
While creating what is a completely new shelter at the Alexander (306 West 94th) one block from Freedom House (316 West 95th), it leaves the 95th Street building vacant, and the owners have said they are “seeking another program.”
Given the total failure of the Freedom House homeless shelter at 316 West 95th, we would hope that Council Member Rosenthal and other electeds would assure us that they will not allow another shelter to open at that site. To date, Rosenthal has only said that the City putting another facility there would make her feel “ill.” In fact, her office has said it will so restrict the possible uses of the current Freedom House building that another shelter may be only a matter of time.
The 95th Street block is already home to the Veterans Residence (330 West 95th), which does a great job serving homeless vets. There are two playgrounds and a preschool entrance for PS 75 on the block.
Neither 94th nor 95th can handle another facility like Freedom House. And 94th Street has a Red Cross shelter (308) and the St. Louis/Rustin House (319), a project shepherded by Ms. Rosenthal when she was chair of Community Board 7 in 2008.
N90s will hold a Steering Committee meeting on Monday, Dec.3rd at 6:15 PM, location TBD. The meeting will be a strategy session for The Alexander. If you’re interested in working on this, please RSVP to info@N90s.org.
Learn more about the Alexander shelter proposal and our response from the statement we submitted to the City at last week’s second hearing:
Statement by Neighborhood In The Nineties on The Alexander Praxis (proposed contract: Department of Homeless Services of the City of New York and Praxis Housing Initiative, Inc.) at City Contract Public Hearing Held on 15 Nov. 2018, 10 AM at Spector Hall at 22 Reade St . Presented by Ruta Behrend, Esq. of TANE WATERMAN & WURTZEL, P.C.
This office is counsel to Neighborhood in the 90s, a not for profit corporation, formed to speak as a coalition on behalf of block associations, residents, retailers and property owners situated between West 90th and West 97th Street between Riverside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue and represent its interest in connection with the placement of City facilities in the neighborhood.
We are here to speak against this proposed contract as the contract and site do not comply with law, pose an additional unfair burden on this overburdened neighborhood which already does so much for the homeless population and create a health and safety risk to the proposed shelter residents – the very people they seek to protect – as well as everyone else in the building and the neighborhood.
Not even 30 days ago, this same contract was presented before this very body. At the time, this room was filled with people who spoke out against the contract and the site, including Aaron Biller, the President of Neighborhood in the 90s.
Approximately 15 people spoke regarding the contract and the very real problems that shelter placement in the Alexander would cause.
Every single person who spoke voiced opposition. Over 50 people appeared and stood in unison against this contract. The reasons and hazards they cited last month are equally applicable now.
We renew our objections for the very same reasons set forth last month as nothing in the contract before you today is any different from what was presented last month.
There are serious defects in this proposal.
The Department of Homeless Services will endanger the SRO (Single Room Occupancy) tenants in the Building by providing housing for 220 vulnerable adults in a non-fireproof building. The vast number of housing code violations in this building poses a risk to the residents and everyone in the neighborhood.
The number of shelter residents proposed is in excess of that which is allowed by the Administrative Code and represents a population increase of 10% over the number that was housed in Freedom House around the corner. These individuals are being moved into a building that does not have adequate fire egress and no heating plant because the building owner removed the building’s heating plant years ago and uses the heating plant of the neighboring building.
The existence of a population of 220 adults, many of whom have serious mental health, drug and alcohol issues poses a danger to the existing SRO population, where there is at least one underage child in the building, and another woman is expecting. The neighborhood has already hired private security to deal with the increase in crime caused by the presence of these troubled individuals who are in desperate need of help; help that is not reflected in the contract for which approval is sought today. Help which is required to be detailed in the contract by law but is not.
Furthermore, the City has failed to perform a Fair Share Analysis for this site.
There is no rational basis as to how the City could possibly justify this site on a Fair share basis when they do finally issue the report.
Can the Administration flout Fair Share any more flagrantly than place one facility adjacent to another, with one more just across the street on the same block? The Alexander would not only be within 400 feet of HPD Red Cross next door, it is less than 100 feet of the St. Louis/Rustin, which draws its population from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) pool.
The City’s continued placement of shelters in this neighborhood ignores the needs of other city residents who desperately need the affordable housing that the SRO units provide.
On 30 November 2011, the New York Times reported about an earlier failed effort to use SRO hotels as shelters: “Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side and lobbied against the deal at the Alexander, said that while permanent housing for the homeless is needed, the Alexander and the three buildings involved in last week’s settlement are best suited for working people in need of cheap housing. “Regular, low-income New Yorkers need a place to live, and this is the perfect place,” Ms. Brewer said.
The voices and concerns of an entire community that came forward less than a month ago must still be heard and considered today.
The contract should still be rejected.
Tuesday, December 4th, 6:30 PM to speak out before the Community Board meeting at Mount Sinai Hospital West.
Contributions to the Neighborhood In The Nineties Legal Fund may be sent by check to:
Neighborhood In The Nineties, Suite 1B, 310 West 94th Street, New York, NY 10025-6868 or visit our homepage, www.N90s.org, and use the DONATE button via PayPal. Legal funds collected and not used will be returned.
A Lifesaving Thanks for Thanksgiving
A special thank you to the dedicated members of the Fire Department who evacuated the Equinox facility at 2465 Broadway this past Sunday after a basement electrical fire. Less than two hours later, a massive blast devastated the gym, filling it with deadly carbon monoxide. No one was injured because of FDNY’s timely, professional work. At the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we must pause to thank the first responders who protect us.