News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
January 18, 2021
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News + Views

Comptroller Slams Shelter

By Lisa M. Collins

City Comptroller John Liu on Halloween released a scathing audit of Aguila, Inc., the contractor proposing to place 170 men in a 10-room condo building near Smith and 9th St. in Carroll Gardens.

Liu said in his report that Aguila’s record is “appalling.” The shelter operator, managed by Robert Hess, Bloomberg’s former commissioner of homeless services, has a history of unsafe facilities and improper expenses, says the report, which is the latest salvo in a years long battle between the comptroller and Mayor Bloomberg over Aguila and its owner, Alan Lapes (one of whose shelter was once called “Hell Hotel” by the New York Daily News, according to this article in Capital New York about the potential conflict of interest).

Bloomberg in July sued Liu in the comptroller’s efforts to block Aguila’s homeless shelters in Manhattan and the Bronx. 

City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents Carroll Gardens at Tammany Hall, has said he thinks Mayor Bloomberg is pushing through the Carroll Gardens contract with Aguila before Bloomberg leaves office Dec. 31, and that the whole deal smacks of cronyism and corruption.

Local residents who’ve mobilized to fight the shelter in court and through the city’s public contract-approval process, forming the Coalition for Carroll Gardens, have been accused of simply wanting to keep a homeless shelter out of this increasingly swanky part of Brooklyn — also known on the street as the zip code with more kids under the age of 5 than anywhere in the nation (though this could be urban legend, a walk down the street is indeed playing dodge-the-stroller.)

Paige Bellenbaum, a local parent and co-chair of the coalition, said the criticism is “too easy.”  

“As I have said all along, the community of Carroll Gardens would welcome homeless families into 165 West 9th street. It would be a perfect fit with the fabric of the community and it would allow the families to have access to good schools and parks and recreation – with a different shelter operator.   “CAMBA is an experienced and reputable provider in Brooklyn, they run a shelter for women in Park Slope, and they do a fantastic job. If a provider such as CAMBA came to the community with a proposal, this whole thing would have gone down completely differently.”  

Bellenbaum challenged people to Google Alan Lapes, and “see what comes up.”

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