BACK TO COURT: FREEDOM HOUSE LAWSUIT UPDATE
CITY COUNCIL ASKS JUSTICE CHAN TO REOPEN RULING ON SHELTER SIZE ISSUE; MAYOR, DHS OPPOSE
Seeking to change legal precedent for the State’s ability to pre-empt City powers, the City Council’s General Counsel and the Department of Homeless Services have asked -each taking an opposing position- that Justice Margaret Chan reconsider her March ruling on shelter size in the case brought by Neighborhood in the Nineties.
Legal papers will be submitted no later than July 28th (Monday), but attorneys for Neighborhood In The Nineties have already submitted our response. Because Borough President Gale Brewer and Scott Stringer have already reached a deal that will cut the 95th Street “Freedom House” shelter in half, to 200 residents, by November, the decision is not likely to immediately affect us.
An appeal by N90s of the full scope of Justice Chan’s decision is already pending.
In March, Justice Chan ruled that only New York State, not the City, can set shelter limits and thus pre-empt the City’s powers to set limits as it sees fit.
It would seem logical that Mayor de Blasio would object to a ruling that diminishes the City’s authority especially given his recent skirmishes over this same issue with Governor Cuomo.
To the contrary, the Mayor’s attorneys and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) are now arguing, as did the Bloomberg administration, that the authority rests with the State. That would allow them to overrule the City Administrative Code. While the City Council argues that the City was not preempted from adopting local shelter size limits, it seeks to draw a distinction among the types of shelters to which the limits are applicable.
When DHS was created as a an agency back in the 1990s, the City Council, with the support of the Legal Aid Society, overruled then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani and modified the City Administrative Code to set firm population limits of 200 on all shelters. At the time, Council leaders said they wanted to prevent the creation of “barracks” shelters with more than 200 people. They could not have been more specific. At no point did the City Council qualify this to allow a 400-person shelter like Freedom House or other oversize shelters created during the Bloomberg administration.
N90s cited the relevant City Administrative code in the lawsuit filed on our behalf by Tane Waterman & Wurtzel, P.C. Our law firm has researched NYS law covering shelters which does reserve to local municipalities the right to make decisions on shelter operations decisions. Nowhere does the state give itself the right to set shelter size.
The City Council’s attorneys, though, only assert the right to limit the size of certain types of shelters–not adult family shelters such as Freedom House.
They are asking the court to void its ruling on preemption in order to give the City the right to limit shelter size on so-called family shelters, but not single adult shelters. This contradicts previous City Council policy, which demanded that no shelter be more than 200 people, in the interest of safety of both shelter residents and neighborhoods.
Why would the City Council’s lawyers seek to limit the scope of the powers over shelters for which it voted previously?
The Council’s legal maneuver has no benefit to the Upper West Side community nor to the homeless people living in the squalid Freedom House shelter. In fact, it has the potential to reverse past progress made in the fight to limit warehousing of the homeless.
N90s is remaining in court to ensure the agreement to reduce the shelter in half is enforced, and to keep up the pressure to close this shelter entirely.
Please support the lawsuit by contributing to our legal fund. As we prepare our latest fundraising drive to fight to close this squalid shelter, we ask that you donate through our PayPal account, go to www.N90s.org and hit our “Donate” button. Checks payable to “Neighborhood in the Nineties, Inc. Legal Fund” should be sent to:
Neighborhood in the Nineties, Inc
c/o: R.A. Cohen & Associates
Attn: Rina Krebs
60 E 42nd Street, Suite 850
New York, New York 10165
Also, send an email to our representatives. Even if it takes a long time for certain elected officials to respond, they are aware of your concerns. It helps us remind them – all we ask is a few minutes of your time.
City Council Member Helen Rosenthal
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Congressman Jerrold Nadler
State Senator Adriano Espaillat
Tell them that our neighborhood has a shelter on nearly every block.
Ask why taxpayer money is being squandered to the tune of $3700 a month for a jail cell size accommodation? Ask why thousands of NYC Housing Authority apartments are left vacant, while adult families and children are living in squalid, high-priced SRO shelters.
Tell them you want Freedom House closed. It’s been a nightmare for the neighborhood, hell for the SRO tenants who are being pushed to leave and little more than a dead-end warehouse which offers no help or hope for the homeless who live there. Enough!