‘I can’t believe there aren’t any alternatives’: CB 12 expresses frustrations with DHS about shelter

Hotel might be homeless shelter. no name no sign at all MQD_4064
The shelter at 4747 Bronx Blvd.
Photo by Miriam Quinones

Once again a shelter was placed into Community Board 12 without the residents’ knowledge. While the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) claims it is temporary because of COVID-19, CB 12 does not believe them.

On May 28, the board held a meeting where elected officials, residents and members vented about the shelter at 4747 Bronx Blvd.

It appears DHS reneged on a promise to not turn the location into a homeless shelter, without so much as an email to local stakeholders.

In 2016, the city nixed plans to build a shelter for people with HIV after outcries from the public. However, according to Community Board 12 District Manager George Torres, a temporary shelter housing 150 men in a 92-room hotel opened up in that location on May 20.

According to Torres, CB 12 has four shelters and it was recently targeted for two additional 200 bed shelters — one at East 233rd Street and the other at Furman Avenue.

CB 12 1st Vice Chairman Dr. Lagree Burke said the community is furious that another shelter was dumped on them.

“This is something I’m not happy about,” he said. “It’s something elected officials are not happy about. You guys have had your eyes on this for a number of years. It would appear COVID-19 was the perfect time to move these guys in.”

A screenshot of CB 12 Vice Chairman Dr. Lagree Burke speaking about the shelter during the board meeting on May 28.Courtesy of CB 12

Burke told the board how he went by the shelter last weekend and there were residents outside without masks and no security out front.

Torres feels this is another sign of mistrust from DHS. DHS is supposed to give them 65 days notice of a new shelter and there was no letter given for 4747 Bronx Blvd., Furman Ave. or 233rd Street.

He noted when he contacted DHS they said they could not reveal the address of the location because of privacy laws.

“You’re asking us to trust that this is a temporary situation,” Torres said. “You have already broken your word one time before.”

Nicole Jordan, Bronx borough commissioner of DHS, said that she did her best to answer a barrage of questions. She explained that in effort to get all homeless people off the streets or relocated from tight, close-knit shelters, DHS has moved 10,000 people during COVID-19 to hotel sites.

Jordan told the board no notice was given because people are being moved quickly due to COVID-19.

She said there is security on site, a 10 p.m. curfew and that residents are required to wear masks While she said that there is no timeline on how long it will be there, she stressed that the situation is temporary.

“Right now we’re doing things at a rapid pace,” she said. “I do understand the concerns.”

Her responses didn’t seem to ease anyone’s minds.

Frank Sotomayor lives next to 4747 Bronx Blvd. and is furious with what has taken place. He has seen residents drinking liquor in the street, smoking pot, panhandling and defecating.

He questioned why they couldn’t put senior of affordable housing in that location.

“It’s disgusting. I don’t know what kind of people they’re putting in there,” he said. “It’s shameful on the city to do something like this.”

Elected officials Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz voiced their discontent with DHS.

After fighting a few years ago to not have this shelter, the duo didn’t understand what occurred. Cohen said that if the Mueller Center nearby was turned into senior housing why DHS could not do the same for this location.

“I’m heartbroken and frustrated that we’re in this position,” Cohen said. “I’m going to hold DHS’ feet to the fire. We feel that Wakefield does more than its fair share. It’s just not acceptable.”

Dinowitz said he knows why DHS moved people into the makeshift shelter, but doesn’t comprehend why it’s in CB 12.

“I understand the bind the city is in,” he said. “I certainly feel for the people that are moving into Bronx Boulevard. We were given a commitment and I thought the site would not be used for a homeless shelter. I can’t believe there aren’t any alternatives.”

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