Hearing Thursday morning
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
More than 1,000 residents of Carroll Gardens have signed a petition against a homeless shelter for 170 single men planned for their neighborhood, while officials from Community Board 6 say they are shocked that the city has ignored every one of their objections to the plan.
A public hearing on the proposed contract long-term contract to Aguila, Inc. to operate a shelter at 165-167 West 9th Street will be held on Thursday, October 17, at 49 Chambers Street at 10 a.m.
Craig R. Hammerman, District Manager of CB6, said via email that the community board received a letter on Friday, October 11 from the Department of Homeless Services informing them that the agency proposed, via a letter to Mayor Bloomberg, to award the controversial contract to Aguila.
Daniel M. Kummer, Chairperson of Community Board 6, immediately fired off a letter to Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Michele Ovesey, calling the shelter proposal “wholly inappropriate.” He also expressed amazement that Mayor Bloomberg was never informed that CB6’s board had resolved by a vote of 31 to 1 (with 3 abstentions) to oppose the use of the site “based on both defective process and lack of merit.”
“Notably, none of the concerns we raised at that time appear to have been addressed in your October 10 letter to the Mayor in any meaningful way,” Kummer wrote to Ovesey.
The city says it faces “unprecedented” demand for homeless shelters, and the proposed shelter –- in a building originally designed as a 10-unit luxury condo -- is compatible with the surrounding area.
But Victoria Malkin, organizer of the petition on Change.org, writes, “What does it say when you take the biggest building in a neighborhood, turn it into a shelter for 170 people with no community input under an emergency dictate, give it to an organization ‘Homeless Solutions’ that is just over one year old to manage, where the owner of the building is on the board and the organization is run by the former DHS Housing commissioner. Whose interests do they have at heart?”
Housing Solutions USA/Aguila Inc. is headed by former Bloomberg official Robert Hess.
In October, 2012, in a letter to the previous Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond, Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Brad Lander and Assemblywoman Joan Millman wrote, “We do not understand how it is possible – or advisable – to squeeze 170 people into a 10-unit building on a block of three-family homes. We have asked this question several times, and received no answer.”
The city says now that occupants would sleep in dormitories holding between 26 – 43 men, while kitchen and bathroom facilities would be communal.
The city also maintains the homeless men would receive employment counseling.
Housing Solutions USA/Aguila Inc. says it provides social services to more than 1,400 homeless families in the Bronx and Manhattan. Headquartered in Manhattan, Housing Solutions USA has submitted “numerous separate proposals to municipal authorities in New York City” to approve its operation of family emergency shelters, according to the company.
In July, 2012, an uproar ensued when Housing Solutions said it would be placing 200 families in buildings in Manhattan at 316 West 95th Street and 330 West 95th Street.