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Restraining order intrigue clouds fate of Carroll Gardens homeless shelter

There's fresh controversy over the use of a building on 9th Street in Carroll Gardens as a homeless shelter. Photo courtesy Google Maps

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Adding a level of intrigue to the legal maneuverings of the city in the case of a controversial men’s homeless shelter it plans for Carroll Gardens, the city’s Department of Homeless Services has denied that a temporary restraining order was issued by Judge David Schmidt on November 20.

By way of evidence, the Department of Homeless Services (DOHS) has sent out a copy of the restraining order issued by the judge on November 20.

“The petitioner’s application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) was denied,” Heather Janik, Press Secretary at DOHS told the Brooklyn Eagle via email on November 29. Janik said that since Judge Schmidt had crossed out part of the requests by the petitioner before approving the order, the order was not approved.

That was news to the petitioner, the Coalition for Carroll Gardens, which was celebrating the approval of the restraining order.

Steven Miller, chair of the Coalition for Carroll Gardens said the group was amazed at the Department of Homeless Service’s statement.

The judge did cross out some of the group’s requests, Miller told the Brooklyn Eagle, including a moratorium on construction work at the building at 165 West 9th Street. But the temporary restraining order ultimately issued by the judge still prohibits the city and its contractors from “using the Building in violation of applicable laws and requirements.”

This is “a win for us because it prohibits any unlawful use of the building,” Miller told the Brooklyn Eagle via email.  “Further, having the order gave us more than we had before because any violation of laws could now subject the wrongdoer to punishment (including imprisonment) for violating the court’s order.  

“The city is being dishonest in its position claiming that no TRO was not granted,” he added.

DOHS’s Janik says in her email that the judge’s order – the one that she says wasn’t granted --  “merely says that the City can’t use the building in violation of any laws, which of course the City would not do.”

A hearing on the Coalition’s application for a preliminary injunction is set for December 7th.

The statement by Homeless Services is just the latest in a series of moves that has many Carroll Gardens expressing dismay about the shelter.

Housing Solutions USA -- run by Robert Hess, the former Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services in the Bloomberg administration -- is behind the filing to open the shelter, which is supposed to serve 170 homeless men in a building designed as a 10 unit condominium.
 
Steven Kirkpatrick, lawyer for Coalition for Carroll Gardens, told the Brooklyn Eagle there were major legal violations with the plan.

“Among other things, the City's Housing Maintenance Code prohibits more than three unrelated persons from occupying any dwelling unit.  Since the building contains only 10 apartments, the maximum permitted occupancy is 30 unrelated persons,” he said.  

“There are also significant issues with the building's certificate of occupancy, which was granted based upon self-certifications by architect Robert M. Scarano.” Although Scarano’s privileges were ultimately revoked, “the Buildings Department nevertheless accepted and relied upon his certifications to issue the building's certificate of occupancy,” Kirkpatrick said.

In an October letter to DOHS 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.”

They also asked why construction has been proceeding without a permit, and note that no details of social services or security have been provided.

The officials also noted in their letter the possibility of conflict-of-interest surrounding the rental of the building from Housing Solutions board member Charles Wertman. “Given that the City of New York will pay substantial sums for the rent of the building, this suggests a large potential conflict-of-interest.”

“Paying a historically corrupt landlord and the former Commissioner of DHS $520,000 a month to house 170 homeless men is a poor use of tax payer dollars,” the Coalition for Carroll Gardens maintains.

Housing Solutions USA said they have submitted “numerous separate proposals to municipal authorities in New York City” to approve its operation of family emergency shelters.

December 5, 2012 - 3:41pm


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