Column: The $430M taxpayer-funded Blondell homeless shelter needs to go

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Remediation this summer of a former trucking site at 1346 Blondell Ave., will push the construction of a planned 200-bed men’s shelter and health clinic to 2024.
Photo Adrian Childress

Everyone is up in arms about the $800 million in taxpayer money going to the Buffalo Bills Stadium, and rightly so. But I can top that one: $430 million for a 3-story building to house 200-single homeless men on Blondell Avenue. Yes, folks, the cost to clean up the toxic and waterlogged site has gone from $350 million to $430 million. Think of that huge amount of money, it boggles the mind.

One of our conscientious members found the following information online:

For 1347 Blondell Ave. for a homeless shelter and health clinic:

Development cost: $430 million (including all soft costs and hard costs). The report was done by Andrew Knox, of Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects, and was sent to the office of then Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. The developer is Dan Shavolian, who is known as a developer of homeless shelters throughout the city. The site will be 37,803 square feet and three floors. This debacle was supposed to begin June 2021 and end December 2022. 

As if this is not bad enough, consider this: A soil boring survey was done at the site, which found evidence of water between 8-10 feet below the surface (it is a recognized flood zone because a creek runs below it). 

At the Blondell Commons site, which is adjoining at 1346 Blondell Ave., the DEC stated: 

“Volatile organic compounds in the groundwater may move into the soil vapor (air spaces within the soil), which in turn may move into overlying buildings and affect the indoor air quality. This process, which is similar to the movement of radon gas from the subsurface into the indoor air of buildings, is referred to as soil vapor intrusion. The potential exists for people to inhale site contaminants due to soil vapor intrusion in any future redevelopment and occupancy.” 1347 Blondell Ave. has the same toxic history, if not worse.

So, let me recap. The city is planning on spending $430 million of your tax dollars to house 200 homeless men in a 3-story building on a toxic site with a water table of 8-10 feet. The building has been delayed until 2024, but it should just be killed. This is an outrageous and ridiculous expenditure. We have contacted the new borough president, the city comptroller, our councilperson, and our state senator about this insanity. This goes beyond the bounds of rationality. It must be one of the biggest boondoggles since a conman in 1824 named Lozier told people to show up with their saws to saw off part of Manhattan Island or it would sink. The development of the Blondell site will be a toxic disaster and quagmire. Can no one stop this insanity?

And now a few choice words for those who recommended this wonderful site to the city Department of Homeless Services, as well as another “ideal” site for 200 homeless men just yards away from the Easter Seals Bronx Developmental Center playground. Obviously, in recommending these terrible sites for homeless shelters you did not do your homework and were only interested in sites on the periphery of your district. These decisions you have made so lightly have the potential to change communities and the health of so many people, who will have to live with this for decades. The White Plains Road shelter has been killed, and these two also need to go. Maybe next time you recommend and put forward a site for a shelter (and I’m looking at you CB11), you will at least do the right thing and research it first.

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