City Rewards Contract for Smaller 95th Street Shelter – Community Will Continue Court Fight, Political Pressure
Another sweetheart contract has been submitted by the City for the West 95th Street shelter known as Freedom House.
The good news is that pressure from the ongoing lawsuit has at least resulted in the shelter being downsized from 400 to 200 beds, effective November 1st.
One of the primary arguments in the suit by N90s on behalf of the community was that the initial 400-person shelter did not comply with the City Administrative Code ceiling that prohibits shelters larger than 200 persons.
Neighborhood In The Nineties was represented by attorney Stewart Wurtzel of Tane Waterman & Wurtzel PC in an action filed in State Supreme Court. Even though Justice Margaret Chan did not adopt many of the arguments raised by N90s, the City agreed to downsize the shelter within a week of the ruling last Spring.
N90s has subsequently filed notice that it is appealing the ruling to the New York State Appellate Division, based on the City’s failure to follow the City Charter, which outlines very specific steps for conducting a “Fair Share Analysis.” It includes notifying a community before a shelter is opened and allowing the community to have meaningful participation in the process.
The contract has shrunk from an original agreement for $46.7 million to $16.1 million, using a smaller shelter and shorter time frame.“It’s still a sweetheart contract to a vendor with a poor operational record and a landlord whose historical mistreatment of tenants is well documented,” says N90s president Aaron Biller.
“They’re getting a 44-month agreement that could outlast the de Blasio administration,” says Biller. “The reimbursement is very similar — roughly $3600 a month for a tiny squalid room — to what Bloomberg was set to give them.
“This is an outrage. SROs should not be used as shelters in the first place. The payments are a multiple of what the typical SRO tenant pays per month, and this is an incentive to replace SRO tenants with shelter residents.
“There is also no incentive for the vendor, Aguila to provide appropriate services to help shelter residents get back on their feet and become self-sustaining people. It’s bad for their business to fulfill Independent Living Plans and get people out of the shelter.
“Giving Aguila a long-term contract is not an incentive for performance, accountability or transparency. And that is bad for the shelter residents, the SRO tenants and the community.
“It comes down to four words: “Show me the money,” says Biller.
“It is even sadder to think that the best de Blasio can do is repeat Bloomberg’s blunders. This is a regressive approach to helping the needy.”
Neighborhood In The Nineties has requested City Council Member Helen Rosenthal to use her position as Chair of the Council Contract Committee to look into the City’s practices of awarding long term contracts at exorbitant costs to house the homeless.
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