Community rails against proposed Bedford Park shelter

Councilman Andrew Cohen speaks out against a men’s shelter proposed for Webster Avenue at a protest on September 19. He was joined by Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, CB 7 chairwoman Adalaine Walker-Santiago and students from nearby schools.
Arthur Cusano

Bedford Park residents and students from local schools joined elected officials on Tuesday, September 19, to voice opposition to a proposed men’s shelter across from a 900-student public school.

Councilman Andrew Cohen led chant of “no shelter” across the street from Sam’s Floor Coverings at 3041 Webster Avenue, also known as Sam’s Carpet, where a third story could be added to accommodate 200 homeless men.

Proximity to local schools is a major concern surrounding the proposed shelter, most notably its location directly across the street from the large city school building that houses both P.S. 20 and M.S. 20.

In addition to those schools, P.S. 8 and M.S. 80 are both located within walking distance of the proposed shelter.

“This community has exercised real true leadership,” Cohen said. “We’re not just saying no shelter anywhere, we understand there is a real homeless crisis in the city of New York. This community board has proposed alternate sites and we are asking the city to partner with us. Not to dictate, but to cooperate with us and work together to come up with a solution that works for this community.”

Community Board 7 members have suggested another site in the area that has been previously considered for new shelter.

That location, 3600 Jerome Avenue, is the former FEGS Bronx Mental Health Center.

The building is located near the Woodlawn train station but is far from schools or residential buildings.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who also represents the area, told those on hand of a lawsuit he had filed against the city alleging the Bronx had an unfair share of shelters.

The abundance overburdens affordable housing, schools, healthcare providers and law enforcement, he added.

“We have twice as many (shelters) as Queens, 41 percent more than Brooklyn, 13 percent more than Manhattan and 99 percent more than Staten Island,” Gjonaj said. “Enough is enough.”

Gjonaj also brought up the discovery of a registered sex offender at another borough shelter, which he said further amplified concerns about the location.

CB 7 chairwoman Adaline Walker-Santiago said the NYC Department of Homeless Services had informed her earlier in the day that no decision had been made on the site.

Work plans had already been approved by the buildings department, she explained, making the issue extremely time sensitive.

A petition against the proposed shelter has been started by the board that can be signed by concerned residents at the board office or at board meetings.

The owner of Sam’s Floor Coverings filed a NYC Department of Buildings permit to add another level to the two-floor building in January.

The approved application includes work to alter the building from commercial-/mercantile use to R-1 – residential, hotel and dormitory use – and to add an additional 7,940 square feet floor.

The DHS has stressed that no decision has been made in regard to the proposal, while the owner of the building did not return calls for comment.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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