In a bold move likely inspired by political maneuvering in the mayoral race, the protesters in their fifth weekend of picketing outside of Mayor Bloomberg’s Pelham Bay campaign office found a new ally in their fight against a St. Peter’s Avenue homeless shelter.
Comptroller William Thompson filed a motion to join a lawsuit funded through a legal defense fund for Westchester Square. The move on Thursday, October 15 dealt with the Department of Homeless Services decision to open the 38-unit shelter without a contract for the location, as required by the City Charter.
The ongoing litigation, including a lawsuit with both merchants and residents as plaintiffs, is winding its way through the courts. It didn’t seem the topic foremost on the minds of about 25 protesters who gathered outside of the campaign office at Hobart Avenue and Middletown Road on Saturday, October 17.
The opening of the shelter in a building slated for luxury apartments without fair share analysis or advance community notification in late August were what most protesters spoke of, when they weren’t chanting slogans like “take a hike, mayor mike,” and “stop secret shelters.”
“I saw this building being built [at 1564 St. Peter’s Avenue] and was upbeat because I thought that it would bring more working-class people into the neighborhood,” said Frisby Avenue resident Carlos Cintron. “I was shocked when I heard the news.”
Cintron, a former paramedic and a registered nurse said that he has been inside many homeless shelters throughout almost three decades of work in the health-care field, and said that some are better than others.
“There are people there that want to use [homeless shelters] as a bridge, but there are also unsavory characters in the shelters,” Cintron said.
He added that unfortunately he’d seen more of the latter over the years.
DHS declared a state of emergency after experiencing an uptick in homelessness over the summer. DHS has stated that because of the emergency, it is not required to follow the charter protocol, which states that all business done by the city must be contractual.
“The city’s lack of effective policy regarding the homelessness has created the crisis they now complain of,” said John Bonizio, president of the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square. “It’s not surprising that their knee-jerk reaction is to spend twice the market rate to solve the problem is being questioned. This is a city-wide problem that is only going to get worse as the weather gets colder. No community is safe from this destructive policy.”