The Muller Army Reserve Center will become home to a National Guard brigade instead of a homeless shelter, if borough leaders have their way.
Three other new homeless facilities are planning to open within a three-block radius of the now vacant Army Reserve Center at 555 Nereid Avenue, including one across the street. A plan has emerged to bring a National Guard unit currently located next to the Kingsbridge Armory to move into the center.
Representatives from the Bloomberg Administration on the Muller Army Reserve Center’s Local Redevelopment Authority have recommended that the facility on Nereid Avenue be used to house a 200-bed men’s homeless shelter.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, Councilman Oliver Koppell, and Community Board 12 chairman Father Richard Gorman are concerned that the Wakefield community is becoming saturated with homeless facilities. Diaz has urged all community boards in the Bronx to sign a letter calling for transferring the facility to National Guard units currently occupying a site near the Kingsbridge Armory, allowing for space for the development of schools in Kingsbridge Heights.
“I am unhappy that this Administration has concluded that the appropriate use for this facility is new housing for the homeless, despite the fact that three new facilities are planned for the immediate area surrounding the Muller facility, one of which will be located directly across the street,” Diaz said. “I do not feel that the concerns of the Bronx have been taken into consideration on this matter, and I feel that we need to negotiate the proper use of the Muller space, which, in my opinion, should be the next home for the National Guard units.”
According a letter Diaz penned to Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel opposing the plan, there are currently 160 other beds for the homeless planned nearby. This includes a project that is moving forward across the street through the non-profit Project Renewal. Another is the construction of new 60-unit supportive housing facility for 42 formerly homeless adult, single men, and 18 families.
Koppell said at the CB 12 meeting on Thursday, October 28 that while he believes there is a need for homeless housing, he is advocating for using the Muller Center for National Guard units because it would not require any reconstruction. He said he has received a letter stating that the National Guard would be willing to move.
“The alternative is to get the National Guard into an totally appropriate setting and out of a setting where they may be obstructing the construction of at least two new schools,” Koppell said.
A spokesman from the Mayor’s office, Andrew Brent, stated that if the city does not go forward with the plan, the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development may move forward on its own to determine the use for the Muller building.
“Since 1994, when the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act was passed by Congress, the federal process when military bases close has given precedence to homeless assistance facilities,” Brent said. “The Local Redevelopment Authority, on which the borough president sits, was created more than two years ago and has followed the federal guidelines to ensure the City has a say in the future of the site. It would be unfortunate if the borough president refuses to participate in the process further, resulting in HUD working with homeless service providers directly and without City input.”