N90s Appeals Supreme Court Shelter Ruling, asks de Blasio To Reject Contract
Neighborhood in the Nineties is appealing a ruling by State Supreme Court judge, Hon. Margaret Chan, in favor of the City and Department of Homeless Services in their effort to compel the Comptroller to register a contract for the 400-person “Freedom House” shelter at 316-330 West 95th Street.
The decision has the potential to set dangerous precedent by ignoring whether the city is factual or reasonable in its analysis of whether a neighborhood is oversaturated with supportive facilities; of whether New York City or New York State has the right to set limits on the size of homeless shelters; and the right to oppose a public nuisance.
Attorneys for N90s will file a motion to stay the registration of the 9.5 year contract, within the next 24 hours. The ruling by Justice Chan ignored key facts concerning the Fair Share mandate in the City Charter. While the judge recognized the validity of Fair Share, consistent with the recent rulings of other State Supreme Court justices, she gives the City credit for following the law when it in fact violated the Charter in numerous instances. She also did not consider it a flagrant violation of Fair Share that the DHS Fair Share analysis claimed there were no shelters within 400 feet when, in fact, the St Louis Hall, which houses mentally ill chemical addicts drawn from DHS clients, abuts the shelter immediately to the rear.
Another part of the Justice Chan ruling has caused concern amongst some in the City Council – the issue of preemption. The ruling has caused concern in the City Council because it denies the City the right to set limits on the size of homeless shelters, reserving that right to the state. If upheld, this would be a serious blow to the efforts of the Coalition for the Homeless and the City Council, which has spent the past decade implementing a shelter limit of 200. Freedom House now has 400 residents, twice the size limit established by the City Council.
Further, Justice Chan rejected N90s nuisance complaints, alleging that quality of life issues affected the community at large, when in fact the problems occurred on the blocks that N90s represents.
Neighborhood In The Nineties has sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio requesting that the City restore the building to its use as affordable housing instead of cementing the proposed city contract which would give shelter operator Aguila and the landlord more than $3,710 a month rent for tiny SRO rooms.
The letter asks de Blasio to break with legacy Bloomberg policies that ill served the homeless, taxpayers, long-term SRO residents, and the homeless, and requesting that the new Mayor set a precedent for transparency, reducing waste and corruption, and protecting affordable housing for populations at risk of homelessness. The letter points out that when the contract was originally written, Aguila was merging with Housing Solutions, run by former DHS Commissioner Robert Hess, whom the city expected to clean up Aguila, which had a troubled record. Mr. Hess passed away from cancer in December, and much of Housing Solutions’ leadership has left. The organization’s disarray merits a review of the contract, as does a second damning audit of Aguila in 2013 after a 2011 audit documented substantial irregularities with Aguila’s use of city money including overbilling for close to $1 million.
We urge the City to withdraw the proposed contract and instead work with the community, including elected officials unanimously opposed to the contract, to abandon its proposed arrangement with Aguila and instead restore the shelter to affordable housing and pursue policies that help the homeless and respect the neighborhoods that house them –not simply line the pockets of politically connected landlords and shelter operators.
We need you to support our efforts to stay in court. Please donate today to the Neighborhood In The Nineties Legal Fund. See below:
Please donate today to support our ongoing efforts to protect our neighborhood. 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
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Copyright © 2014 Neighborhood In The Nineties, Inc., All rights reserved.
N90s is a coalition of neighbors dedicated to the preservation, public safety and quality of life of the neighborhood bounded by Riverside Park and Amsterdam Avenue, from West 90th to West 97th Streets, since 1971.
Our mailing address is:
310 West 94th Street, Suite 1B, NYC 10025
Support our efforts on behalf of our beautiful neighborhood – Donate to the Neighborhood In The Nineties Legal Fund