Commissioner responds to concerns over 233 Landing Road shelter

Steven Banks, commissioner of NYC Department of Social Services.
Courtesy photo

The commissioner of the NYC Department of Social Services responded to issues raised by a nearby 1,130-unit gated coop complex over a homeless shelter set to open at 233 Landing Road in University Heights.

Commissioner Steven Banks’ letter, dated Wednesday, November 15, was addressed to the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation, that oversees the 9-building hi-rise development in University Heights.

The coop’s board of directors had blasted the NYC Department of Homeless Services over residents’ concerns about the all-adult male shelter in a letter dated Friday, November 3.

In Banks’ letter, he thanks the FHOC board for its letter that related their concerns over the “transitional and affordable housing facility that will open at 233 Landing Road and be operated by the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a not-for-profit service provider partner.”

The commissioner’s comments were not well-received by Rachel Miller-Bradshaw, FHOC board vice president, and Myrna Calderon, board president.

“Banks is more worried about negative media coverage and not looking bad to his boss than he is about actually engaging the community and being concerned with the safety of the residents where he is actually putting these shelters,” Miller-Bradshaw said.

She also mentioned the effect on the property values within the community.

Miller-Bradshaw found Banks’ generically-addressed letter disrespectful, because the November 3 letter the board sent him was signed by four directors.

“To send the letter ‘To Whom It May Concern,’ sounds very ambigious and disregarding as if he did not know that four board members signed our letter,” Miller-Bradshaw said.

“It should have been addressed to ‘Dear Fordham Hill Board of Directors and shareholders.’ That’s disregarding such a large cooperative. He’s not aware we are the largest and longest running privately owned cooperative in New York City. So to just disrespect us like we’re not an influence in the community still just shows how the city has treated us in this whole situation with 233 Landing Road,” she added.

Miller-Bradshaw felt that Banks letter “didn’t address any of our needs, concerns and specific requests that we asked for. None of it. As if he disregarded it and (saying) we’re moving forward with how we want to proceed and what you think about our moving into your community does not even matter.”

Calderon agreed with Miller-Bradshaw, saying that Banks’ did not address safety concerns, and just wrote a generic letter saying this is what we’re doing to pacify the community.

Calderon said, “If they had bothered to consult with the community, there would have been a whole different outcome. They would have realized this is the worst possible location.”

She noted nearby daycares and a park heavily used by area children.

Calderon called the shelter “a real nightmare. If you have 200 homeless men, the majority are probably harmless and some of them are homeless through no fault of their own, but you only need a few, a handful, that are problems.”

Regarding law enforcement, Calderon said that Banks never consulted with the 52nd Precinct about plans for the shelter, and the precinct only found out when the board brought it to their attention.

“An officer told me this is crazy, this is a nightmare for them, that they are not equipped.

“This shelter was not even slated in the budget and even thought about, but now you’re going to have to provide more police officers,” Calderon said. “When you call the precinct, it takes them so long to get here.”

Banks referred to the town hall held on Wednesday, October 25, when DHS and BRC met with community residents about the site.

Senior officials who participated included Jackie Bray, DHS’s first deputy commissioner, and Muzzy Rosenblatt, the CEO of BRC.

In June of 2017, more than six months before the site was scheduled to open, DHS and BRC engaged with Fordham Hill Cooperative board of directors in a meeting that included Councilman Fernando Cabrera and BRC chief program officer David Tatum, according to Banks.

He wrote that on-site services will include case management, housing placement assistance, screening/assessment/interventions for substance use disorders, and an intensive, primary focus on employment that places vocational skills, career-readiness, job training and employment counseling.

No less than an eight-member security detail and a supervisor will control the building’s entrances, and monitor 69 security cameras, per shift, over a 24-hour period.

A community advisory board will be formed and hold regular meetings to maintain open, ongoing dialogue with the communityBanks wrote.

BRC will aim to hire from the local community as they fill job openings and available positions at this facility, according to Banks.

Reach Reporter Bob Guiliano at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at bguiliano@cnglocal.com.

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