Today’s news:

Liu blocks Crotona shelter contract

Bronx Times

The days could be numbered for a homeless shelter in the west Bronx all because of clerical errors made by a troubled non-profit.

Citing irregularities in its paperwork, city Comptroller John Lui shot down a $20 million, five-year contract from the Department of Homeless Services to Aguila Inc., a shelter provider with sites in the south and northwest Bronx.

Aguila Inc. intended to oversee 1625-1631 Fulton Avenue in Crotona Park, a 101-unit private housing complex, that was into a family homeless shelter.

The rejection, according to Comptroller spokeswoman Stephanie Hoo, lied in Aguila Inc.’s paperwork, which included a vague description of the shelter type.

“One part of the contract said 101 beds, but another part it said 101 families,” said Hoo, adding the conflicting information violated the city’s Fair Share analysis, which requests clarity when siting shelters.

The Crotona Park community ranks sixth in the borough with the most shelters, 11 total. The Concourse area within Community Board 4 lists the most, with 31 shelters.

“Transparency is paramount when siting homeless shelters, and these contracts failed the test on many counts,” said Liu, a candidate for mayor.

But Samantha Levine, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg, chastised Liu’s decision to turn down the contract, suggesting it’s simply a political power play.

“This is another example of John Liu abandoning any pretense of acting as an appropriate fiscal steward rather than a candidate for political office,” said Levine.

The latest rejection is just another black eye for Aguila Inc., in the shelter business for years, accepting big cash payments from the DHS--upwards to $3,000 a month per unit--to solve the shelter shortage crisis scattered throughout the city.

But many have complained Aguila Inc. has been a bad provider, particularly in cluster-site shelters where homeless and regular-paying tenants reside in the same building.

It’s at sites in Norwood and Longwood where Aguila Inc. evicted Section 8 tenants, some of whom have lived there for decades, just so it can make apartments available homeless clients.

The nonprofit merged with Housing Solutions USA, where some board members include Charles Wertman, ranked as the 80th worst landlord by Public Advocate Bill De Blasio. Housing Solution’s CEO is Robert Hess, a Bloomberg-appointed former DHS commissioner.

Aguila Inc. is also the subject of a follow-up audit conducted by the Comptroller’s Office after auditors determined in 2011 the nonprofit overbilled the city by over a million dollars.

It has the option of fixing its faulty contract, which gives them a four-year extension if they choose to re-apply. No one returned calls for comment.

DHS did not respond to a request for comment.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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