The dispute over the future use of the Muller Army Reserve Center may soon turn into a legal battle between the borough president and the Bloomberg administration. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is now calling on the federal government to intervene in the dispute.
The mayor contends that a vote in favor of a plan for a 200-bed men’s homeless shelter by the Muller Local Redevelopment Authority took place in November 2010.
The Muller LRA is comprised of deputy mayors Linda Gibbs and Robert Steel, as well as Diaz, who claims that the meeting that took place between him and other LRA members in November was merely to discuss differences and not to take a formal vote.
Diaz wrote to the federal government in a letter dated Wednesday, July 13 stating that his two counterparts on the panel had compromised the LRA process. The contention that a vote took place flies in the face of all evidence, including the public hearing that occurred on Wednesday, June 22 where more than 330 residents of Wakefield and Woodlawn voiced their opposition to the homeless shelter plan, Diaz said.
“The mayor’s office has also failed to explain why they would hold a public hearing to comment on the submission in June 2011 and then claim that a vote on that same submission took place seven months earlier,” Diaz said in a statement. “I, my staff, and most importantly my constituents remain flabbergasted at this twisted logic, which at best represents a misunderstanding of the LRA process or, at worst, is an outright lie.”
The borough president asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to reject the plan delivered on Thursday, June 30 by the administration that outlined the opening of a homeless shelter at Muller.
Community leaders and Diaz are instead calling for National Guard Units currently housed in the Kingsbridge Armory annex to relocate to the Muller Center, so that new schools can be constructed.
Residents will be deluged by a “homeless colony” if the shelter is allowed to open, said Community Board 12 chairman Fr. Richard Gorman, and he urged the borough president to take legal action against the administration if the federal government can’t resolve the dispute.
“I hope that the federal government realizes that there are other things at stake here other than the opening of a homeless shelter,” Gorman said. “This is about the survivability of a neighborhood, the need for schools in the northwest Bronx, and a whole variety of other issues.”
Diaz’s letter also stated that if errors in the process cannot be resolved, he would be forced to take legal action.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said that there is a federal mandate since 1994 that gives preference to homeless shelters at closed military bases and that the city is meeting its obligation to provide homeless shelters to all New Yorkers in need with the Muller Center plan.