Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander said Tuesday that “shady practices” are at clearly work in the city proposal to contract with a controversial homeless service provider and place 170 homeless men in a 10-unit building at Smith and 9th Streets.
“There is no doubt that there has been a series of shenanigans,” Lander said, pointing out that his objections and questions to the city have been repeatedly ignored as the city Department of Buildings recently cleared a series of violations regarding the proposal to put the shelter at 165 W. 9th Street.
“There is a concerted effort of the Bloomberg administration,” Lander said. “They are obviously trying to push this through,” before Bloomberg leaves office on Dec. 31, Lander said.
Lander said he’s written letters requesting to see a service plan and a security plan, as required by law, but none have been provided.
“It raises questions of corruption,” Lander said.
The city is enacting an “emergency” plan for homeless shelters, and thereby skipping many checks and balances in the permitting process, because the city homeless population has spiked during Bloomberg’s tenure, Lander said.
The councilman spoke to about 100 local residents who turned out Tuesday evening for a meeting about the shelter proposal. The meeting was held at 505 Court St. condominium building at Court and Huntington.
Jason Laschewer lives at 529 Court Street. He’s concerned that the shelter will cause safety concerns in the neighborhood.
Lander has asked the city’s Department of Investigations to look into the proposal. He said it’s the first time as a councilman that he has asked for an investigation.
The shelter is controversial in part because of the details of the plan: Mainly, that a shelter operator named Alan Lapes would place 170 homeless men with special needs into a 10-unit apartment building. Lapes’ facilities have faced Department of Buildings and other violations. The $30 million, 5-year contract with the city has an option to renew through 2022.
A group called the Coalition for Carroll Gardens is spearheading the fight against the shelter, urging local residents to sign a petition, write letters and emails, and to show up for a public hearing in Manhattan Thursday. The city will take testimony at the Thursday hearing, and then make a final decision on whether or not to grant a multi-year contract.
“There is a narrow window of opportunity that we have as a community to take action,” said Page Bellenbaum, co-chair of the Coalition for Carroll Gardens.
The coalition is trying to raise $50,000 in order to hire a top legal team to fight the shelter should the city OK it.
“The legal action has been very expensive. We are asking people to donate to the legal fund,” Bellenbaum said.
State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery was in attendance. She said that if Bill deBlasio, her fellow democrat, should win the mayoral race, she expects that he will oppose the shelter.
“There are many of these facilities in Bedford-Stuyvessant,” Montgomery said. “They are abusive to the people who are living there, and bad for the community.
“This is not the way to support and provide for homeless people.”
Councilman Lander said the shelter would have opened a year ago if it wasn’t for the work of the Coalition for Carroll Gardens.
Opposition to the proposal from local officials appears to be unanimous. On Oct. 16, Daniel M. Kummer, director of Community Board Six, which represents Carroll Gardens and the surrounding area on matters of zoning and other issues, wrote a letter to the NYC Director of Homeless Services, Michele Ovesey. Kummer asked that his previous letter get added to the public record, in which he communicated that Community Board Six voted 31 to 1 to oppose the proposal, “based on both defective process and lack of merit.”
To attend the upcoming hearing and provide testimony:
A Contract Public Hearing will be held on Thursday, October 17, 2013, at 49-51 Chambers Street (Bank Lobby) Borough of
Manhattan, commencing at 10:00 AM in the matter of a proposed contract between the Department of Homeless Services and Aguila Inc. to operate a Standalone Transitional Residence for homeless adults at 165 West 9 thStreet, Brooklyn, NY 11231. The total contract amount shall be $29,987,257. The contract term shall be from November 1, 2013 to June 30, 2018 with an option to renew from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2022.