‘Emergency’ circumvents process

Despite a meeting at Community Board 10 recently where Bronxites protested the Department of Homeless Services decision to move homeless families into a brand new Zerega building without prior notice, many are still dissatisfied.

From elected officials to community leaders, concern has is real regarding the lack of public notification and internal study and review of the facility’s location – a 38-unit building at 1564 St. Peters Avenue. Ten families, comprised of women and children, were moved in, and 28 more will follow.

Westchester Square-Zerega leader Sandi Lusk and others are holding a non-binding public meeting, to which representatives from DHS and the mayor’s office were invited.

It will take place at the Westchester Square Library, located at 2521 Glebe Avenue, starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 12.

“The people are upset at the underhanded, sneaky way this facility was opened,” Lusk said. “It is an insult and slap in the face of the community and our elected officials, who were not notified.”

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said DHS’ lack of notification might be indicative of the management style of the current mayoral administration.

“There is a certain arrogance in this administration’s way of doing business,” Benedetto said. “This shelter will have a terrible impact on the community.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca said that even if there is a homeless emergency, it does not excuse DHS from going through due process to open the facility. DHS labeled the current homeless situation an “emergency” to justify its move.

“If there is a citywide emergency with homelessness, why wasn’t one declared?” asked Vacca.

“Does using the word ‘emergency’ allow you to do whatever you want? DHS should have had the foresight to insure that this emergency didn’t occur. In the case of St. Peters Avenue, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Commissioner Robert Hess were wrong in how they proceeded and Mayor Bloomberg now has the opportunity to reverse this decision.”

A DHS spokeswoman said: “As a matter of right to shelter in New York, any family can walk into the intake center, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, and be placed into a shelter within a matter of six to eight hours. A family in need of a roof over their head is an emergency, and we treat it as such. DHS is nimble and does its best to plan ahead, but sometimes we need to act quickly to meet our legally mandated right to shelter […].”

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