Today’s news:

Protest signs raised in defiance to Bloomberg

As the final protest before Election Day against the opening of a St. Peters Avenue homeless shelter wrapped up, picketers – many in costume – raised signs high above their heads and faced the windows of Mayor Bloomberg’s Pelham Bay mayoral campaign office.

The gesture of defiance, after two-months of protests, was a the final hurrah in a street campaign against the shelter. The homeless housing opened in a newly completed residential building at 1564 St. Peters Avenue without advance community notification or fair share analysis by the Department of Homeless Services in late August.

Inside the office at Middletown Road and Hobart Avenue, campaign staffers remained vigilant. A dozen police officers were stationed nearby as protestors walked around in a pen, sometimes shouting things like “Hey diddle didde, Mike’s lost the middle [class].”

“I commend everybody who is here, and everyone should know this is not the end,” said Anita Valenti, of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and Community Association. “We are going to work together to organize the entire [northeast Bronx] because we are all going to suffer if we don’t stop the DHS from converting apartment buildings [into homeless housing].”

The protesters came from all walks of life. Many were homeowners near Westchester Square. Some were merchants, who worry that the proliferation of social service providers near the square – with about 22 already operating – will harm business. Others were concerned that once Westchester Square gets homeless housing, other neighboring communities could be next.

A bullhorn was used during part of the protest, as the group of about 25 protesters fulfilled a pledge to march on the campaign office every Saturday up until the November 3 general election. Many believe the fight is not over.

“If [Bloomberg] wins, there is no reaching him,” said Sandi Lusk, of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization. “We have been marching for many weeks not just for Westchester Square, but for everyone because the whole Bronx is affected by these policies. Maybe the state legislature can intervene, and we can take it to a higher level. In any event, the fight has to go on.”

Lusk, one of the petitioners in a lawsuit against DHS’ opening the shelter without a contract, bypassing “fair share analysis” or advance community notification, added: “We are going to have to be unified and organized.”

The Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square has filed a lawsuit that is currently in the courts. The crux of their lawyers’ argument is the homeless shelter is unlawful because there isn’t a contract, possibly violating the City Charter. The shelter was opened because of an unspecified homeless emergency.

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

CNG: Community Newspaper Group