Clueless and Doing A Poor Job:
N90s, Electeds Confront DHS and Aguila Over Nuisance Shelter
Neighborhood In The Nineties (N90s) participated in the first informal face-to-face meeting March 25th with the management of the West 95th St. Freedom House shelter to address the public safety and quality of life problems it causes.
N90s, in conjunction with a coalition of permanent residents of the building, co-op, condo and rental buildings and businesses is suing the City to stop the shelter in a case still pending before the State Supreme Court. The shelter, which opened in August 2012, still operates month-to-month and has no long term contract thanks to the lawsuit.
City Council Member Helen Rosenthal attended the meeting with representatives of the Department of Homeless Services and shelter operator Housing Solutions/Aguila, as did representatives of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Adriano Espaillat and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.
Rosenthal challenged representatives of the City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) for pleading ignorance or giving defensive and dismissive answers when confronted with such shelter-related problems as:
- 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
- Fighting in the building that disturbs SRO tenants and neighboring buildings
- Crime reports including a stabbing last fall on West 94th Street
- Garbage hurled out windows, which is then left to feed rats and mice
- Residents sleeping in Riverside Park and Joan of Arc island overnight
DHS officials insisted that the shelter would remain open. They claimed that they have taken responsibility for the building, yet when presented with numerous complaints of quality of life problems since the shelter opened, they repeatedly insisted that they could not do anything about drug dealing, sleeping in the park, or public disorderly behavior. They urged neighbors to call 911 or 311, while claiming that there were few complaints.
They acted flustered when N90s produced a letter documenting complaints about noise, fighting and garbage hurling were not only posted with the City, which issued a complaint number, but the shelter itself was called many times and was unresponsive.
N90s reminded DHS that similar complaints were made at the one public meeting held on January 30, 2013, so it was difficult to believe that they or Aguila could feign ignorance or claim that it had acted responsibly.
Shelter officials said that 106 of the original, permanent residents remain in the building, almost the same as when the shelter opened in August 2012 except for one resident who died. Since October, they said, 44 couples have moved to other housing arrangements, some permanent. The average stay is 352 days.
They said they’d get back to us with information on how many people had found employment while living in the shelter, referred to HRA employment services, and how many clients are currently employed.
Shelter officials balked when the delegation requested information on the percentage or total number of residents who are mentally ill.
They refused to say whether the person who threw a television out of the window was still living there or what the consequences were to that person of the dangerous behavior.
The delegation also requested information on:
- How Housing Solutions/Aguila was addressing the complaints raised in the comptroller’s most recent audit, including inaccurate tracking of sign-ins and thus billing to the city;
- The number of 311 complaints the shelter has received and their responses;
- The number of residents with outstanding warrants.
We will continue to update the community on the lawsuit progress and our drive to close this nuisance shelter, which is doing a poor job of serving the homeless, while disrupting the life of this neighborhood and the permanent SRO tenants.
N90′s needs your support! We are kicking off our Spring Drive to support the lawsuit to stop the shelter operator from getting a 9.5-year long permanent contract. The case is now in State Supreme Court.
Please consider a donation to support our ongoing efforts to protect our neighborhood. Please contact us if you have questions, or would prefer to send a personal check. Thank you!
Donations by check may be sent to:
Neighborhood In The Nineties, Inc.
60 East 42nd Street, Suite 850
New York, NY 10165
ATT: Ms. Rina Krebs
Donations are also accepted via PayPal.