A planned 200-bed single men’s shelter for 1682 Stillwell Ave. had residents and elected officials fired up on Monday when many voiced their displeasure at the Community Board 11 Housing meeting.
In December, Councilman Mark Gjonaj was told the shelter was coming to CB 11. It is being developed by the Lantern Group and is anticipated to open in late 2021. The property is an old auto body shop and will be converted into a 6-story building with 30 units.
Many expressed frustrations that shelters are being dumped on the Bronx since CB 11 also has another planned for Blondell Ave. However, CB 11 currently has no shelters.
Hazel Miura, chair of the housing committee, feels this isn’t the right location for a shelter. With Icahn Charter School at 1500 Pelham Parkway, a special needs pre-school at 1770 Stillwell Ave. and many private homes nearby; she thinks it should go somewhere else.
“We are a very family-oriented community,” she said. “We are a very safe community.”
Molly Park, first deputy commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), explained that not everyone in a shelter is dangerous or a drug addict. People have a misconception about shelters, she stressed.
Clients that stay in shelters can be people who are down on their luck and can’t afford housing at the moment.
“People come to shelters from a lot of different paths,” she explained. “They could have a job in the community.
I’d like to challenge the notion that people experiencing homelessness can’t be good fabric to the neighborhood. These are our fellow New Yorkers.”
However, board members Oral Selkridge, Al D’Angelo and Yahay Obeid and the councilman are wondering why the city plans to pay $3.5 million a year for five years to the owner when budgets are being slashed everywhere and the country is in a pandemic
Gjonaj questioned Park in what felt like was a cross-examination in a courtroom. The lawmaker asked several times why so much cash was shelled out for a shelter and she could not answer.
“I don’t know why you would come to this meeting and not have numbers,” he said. “You’re not here to answer questions. You’re here to waste an hour.”
Obeid echoed his sentiments.
“The real estate market is priority over the neighborhood,” Obeid said.
They also wanted to know why the shelter is going to be 6-stories and Parks had no answer. Selkridge felt this would be out of character with the area.
“It’s going to stick out versus all the buildings in the neighborhood,” he said. “Right now it doesn’t make sense to me.”