The Department of Homeless Services is ready to award a four-year, multi-million dollar contract to the operator of its St. Peter’s Avenue homeless shelter and the Westchester Square community will have only one more chance to weigh in on the matter: a public hearing on Thursday, February 18.
DHS has proposed a four-year contract worth $7,554,584 for homeless services provider BASICS Housing Inc. The contract would take effect on Monday, March 1 and would include an optional four-year extension.
When DHS and BASICS opened the shelter in August without a formal contract it agreed to pay a St. Peter’s Avenue landlord sky-high rents. Infuriated Westchester Square leaders wondered whether the city would bankrupt itself in its efforts to house the homeless.
“We are paying Manhattan prices for 38 homeless families to live on St. Peter’s Avenue,” said Westchester Square resident leader Sandi Lusk, a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against DHS.
Lusk and Westchester Square business leader John Bonizio, also a plaintiff, is outraged that the city has laid off a children’s librarian at the Westchester Square Library, contemplated closing Ladder Company 53 on City Island and cut innumerable programs, yet is willing to pay more than triple the market rate for apartments in Westchester Square.
“They are paying $3,800 a month per apartment,” Bonizio said. “The city would save at least $3,000 a month in rent if it paid the market rate. Wouldn’t that money keep one more teacher in the classroom or save one more fire company?”
DHS’ decision to award a contract to BASICS surprised no one close to the Westchester Square lawsuit. The city always intended to make the shelter permanent, Bonizio said.
“A proposed contract between DHS and Basic Housing, Inc., to operate the St. Peter’s shelter on a long-term basis is proceeding through the city’s procurement process,” DHS spokeswoman Heather Janik said.
The public hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, February 18 in Spector Hall on the main floor of 22 Reade Street in Manhattan. There should be a copy of the proposed contract available for public inspection in DHS headquarters at 33 Beaver Street during normal business hours, the office of the Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. noted.
Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at 718 742-3393 or procchio@c
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