Brownstone Brooklyn residents gathered at Grand Prospect Hall on Tuesday to condemn the city for inking a preliminary contract deal that will cost taxpayers more than $10,000 per unit, per month in operating costs for two planned homeless shelters in Park Slope.
“Where does it say in the city charter, or anywhere, that the taxpayers of this city have a responsibility to pay almost $11,000 per-month to house homeless people in luxury condos that the people in the community can’t afford to live in?” railed Bo Samajopoulos.
The neighboring shelters — located at 535 and 555 Fourth avenues, and offering a combined 253 housing units — have divided community members, who have demonstrated both ardent support and fierce opposition to the Department of Homeless Services plan since the refuges were announced last April.
According to public data, the city is planning on inking two roughly nine-year contracts for the buildings, both of which will be operated by not-for-profit Women In Need at a combined cost of $260 million beginning in December.
The building at 535 Fourth Ave. will cost taxpayers approximately $17 million per year — of which $6.3 million will be slated for rent, or about $3,547 in monthly rent per unit, according to the Department of Homeless Services.
By contrast, the building at 555 Fourth Ave. will cost $13 million yearly — $4.6 million in rent, which amounts to around $3,650 in per month rent for each unit, according to the Department.
The additional costs for services and personnel brings an added $6,000 on average, per unit — which the Department chalked up to high security costs and pricey social services. However, the non-rent cost is more than double what Women In Need pays at a similar shelter in Brownsville, according to Gothamist. Women in Need did not respond to a request for comment on the discrepancy between service costs on the two shelters.
The total cost of each unit — including rent and all other overhead expenses — tops $10,000 per month.
“As far as I can tell, this is fraud,” said Samajopoulos. “This scheme — because it’s not a deal, it’s a scheme — needs to go in the garbage where it belongs. And the people who thought it up need to go to jail where they belong.”
Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) took the microphone at Tuesday’s meeting to defend the cost, arguing that decades of stashing homeless shelters in lower income neighborhoods — where rent prices were lower — lead to a damning legacy of perpetual poverty.
“It had the consequence of concentrating homeless shelters in the lowest income neighborhoods,” said Lander. “The decision to pay extra to be willing to put these shelters in the full diversity and array of neighborhoods in our city — including the south slope and including Manhattan — was a decision made by the de Blasio administration, and it is indeed one that I support.”
But, residents pushed back — asking why this developer was chosen to receive what appears to be a windfall from the city.
“I would like to know how these two developers were chosen to get full rent, and at full price,” said Amichaim Abramson. “I’m all for homeless shelters — but 3,500 dollars a month to these developers? Something feels very wrong. I would really like someone to explain how this happened, and who negotiated it, because we can make a better deal. I’m quite sure of it.”
Despite the outrage surrounding the contracts, many residents claimed the shelters’ critics true motivation was preventing homeless people from moving in next door.
“It feels somewhat disingenuous to come out against these shelters just because of some perceived political corruption — which there may be,” said John Alvarez. “I’m sure that this developer is greedy, and we can address that absolutely positively. I’m 100 percent on board with holding those people to task — but I don’t want to hold homeless families hostage as a result.”
Another pro-shelter speaker simply appealed to Brooklynites better angels.
“These families and children are our families and children,” said Mark Greenberg of the Interfaith Assembly on Homlessness and Housing. “I know that Brooklynites have a big heart, and I know that we can do this.”