In Carroll Gardens, residents say Bloomberg illegally fast-tracking unwanted homeless shelter

Taking a stand: Councilman Brad Lander spoke at packed community meeting full of concerned residents on Oct. 15 — accusing the Bloomberg Administration of rushing along a controversial plan to open a 170-bed men’s homeless shelter in Carroll Gardens.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Mayor Bloomberg is illegally shoving a controversial men’s homeless shelter down the throats of Carroll Gardeners before a new mayor takes office in January, claim angry residents.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) was one of many at a jam-packed meeting on Tuesday night who said that the city is pushing the throttle on a proposal to turn a vacant 10-unit W. Ninth Street building into a permanent 170-bed homeless shelter through a corrupt scheme in the fleeting days of the Bloomberg Administration.

“There is a concerted effort by the Bloomberg Administration to rush this [proposal] in, in ways that raise many more questions than they answer,” Lander said to roughly 100 residents who filled the lobby of a Court Street apartment complex, just steps away from the planned shelter between Court Street and Hamilton Avenue.

“They are trying to get it through before they are done to ink it for a lot of years,” said Lander, who along with other local pols, called for an investigation of the shelter plan earlier this month after the city cleared numerous violations on the W. Ninth Street site, according to officials.

A May 2013 audit by the Department of Buildings found “several objections” to zoning, building codes, and multiple dwellings law and threatened to revoke all permits from the site that leaseholder Housing Solutions USA and Augila Incorporated have been trying to turn into an all men’s adult homeless shelter since the operator filed with the Department of Homeless Services last year, according to Lander’s office.The Department of Buildings then dismissed all violations on the property expect for one, according to the city agency’s website. Lander, along with state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Fort Greene) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens), also filed a Freedom of Information Law request for all documents detailing the buildings agency’s audit.

The Coalition for Carroll Gardens, a group that has been fighting a year-long battle against this shelter plan and held Tuesday night’s meeting, urged fretful residents to sign petitions and testify at a city hearing on Thursday on the Department of Homeless Services’ proposal to grant a renewable five-year contract to the shelter operator of the W. Ninth Street building.

“This is a very narrow window of opportunity we have to take action as a community,” said Paige Bellenbaum, a leader of the group, which asked residents to donate money to its legal-defense fund.

The Coalition — which has spent several months battling the shelter plan in court — tried to block the plan by filing for a temporary restraining order against the city and service providers last year, and celebrated a big win when a state Supreme Court judge ordered in December that the building not be used “in violation of applicable laws and requirements,” even though he allowed construction to continue at the site.

Lander pointed out that the homeless shelter, which residents have been fighting since its inception, would have been up and running long ago without the road blocks put up by the Coalition.

Full of woes: Roughly 100 fretful Carroll Gardeners packed an Oct. 15 community meeting regarding a controversial plan to turn a vacant 10-unit W. Ninth Street building into a permanent 170-bed homeless shelter.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Many residents have contended that the proposal to cram 170 adult men into a 10-condominum building is abusive and illegal.

“You’re squeezing 170 people into a building that doesn’t have the room for it,” said longtime W. Ninth Street resident Steven Gladstone, who claimed that his block was swarming with loiterers when 120 homeless veterans temporarily moved into the proposed homeless shelter in November.

The seven-story building, which was constructed more than 10 years ago, was originally slated for luxury condos, but was never occupied until the vets moved in after Hurricane Sandy ravaged their Queens shelter. They were out within 10 days.

Other residents argued that the proposal for the long-term homeless shelter is unsafe and unfit for the family-centric neighborhood.

“I’m afraid of the safety of the residents and that it might attract a population that increases crime,” said Court Street resident Les Wacker.

Residents and local pols also fear that Alan Lapes, the operator of several homeless shelters around the city who has been accused of operating shoddy facilities marred by violence and drugs, and who they think has connections to Housing Solutions USA, could be their new neighborhood landlord.

In the past year Housing Solutions USA merged with Augila Incorporated, which is headed by Robert Hess – a former New York City Department of Homeless Services commissioner.

Public hearing on proposed homeless shelter (49-51 Chambers Street near Centre Street in Manhattan) Oct. 17, 10 am.

Concern-ridden: Some Carroll Gardens residents contended that the planned 170-bed men’s homeless shelter on W. Ninth Street is completely unfit for the family-centric neighborhood.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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