The ongoing protest against a St. Peter’s Avenue homeless shelter that opened in August with little prior notification to the community is headed to court on Monday, December 7.
Bus transportation to the Bronx County Courthouse for the hearing on Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization v. Robert Hess, Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) will be available to anyone who wishes to attend. The bus will leave from in front of the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square office at 25 Westchester Square at 8 a.m. on December 7. The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will address whether DHS acted properly when it opened the shelter. Westchester Square merchants and community members want the court to compel DHS to sign a contract with its St. Peter’s Avenue homeless services provider and to do so in cooperation with Community Board 10.
“We are in the process of putting together transportation to the hearing,” said John Bonizio, president of the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square. “We are going to have a rally on the steps of the courthouse before the hearing.”
Bonizio and Sandi Lusk of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization spoke passionately at recent community meetings about the need for community members to make the trip to the courthouse.
Both think it would be good to show the court how the community was taken aback when DHS opened the shelter for homeless women and children without a Fair-Share Analysis.
Fair-Share Analyses are based on criteria developed by theCity Planning Commission for the siting of facilities like homeless shelters. The goal of Fair-Share Analyses is to ensure a fair distribution of such facilities throughout the city and to ensure that the burdens and benefits associated with homeless shelters are shared.
At issue in the St. Peter’s Avenue homeless shelter lawsuit DHS’s alleged failure to hold a Fair-Share hearing. Hess has argued that DHS had declared a homelessness emergency before it assigned homeless to the 38-unit building, and that the emergency necessitated immediateaction.
In theory, the Fair-Share process increases public participation through notification and discussion. Westchester Square merchants and community members have argued that there are at least 22 social service facilities nearby.
“It is not just the number of the facilities, but the size of the populations they serve,” Lusk said. “We have a mental health clinic that is serving 1,500 people a week. We have the Lewis and Clark School (P.S. 12) that serves 500 emotionally disturbed kids. We have large numbers in other programs. [The facilities] are overwhelming the residential population.”
For more information, call the merchant’s office at (718) 597-4629.