Op-Ed | Lesson unlearned for CB11 leadership over White Plains Road shelter proposal

white plains road shelter
On Friday, March 18, the city announced it was not moving forward with its plan to construct a 200-bed shelter at the corner of White Plains Road and Bronxdale Avenue.
Photo Adrian Childress

In a recent Bronx Times letter to the editor, the Community Board 11 District Manager Jeremy Warneke doubled down on the decision not to inform the community of the 2028 White Plains Road men’s shelter immediately after CB11 was notified in October 2021. He stated, “I know that CB11 did the right thing,” which echoed the words of CB11 Chair Al D’Angelo, who also stated, “We obviously made the right call” in a recent Bronx Times article.

The City Charter mandates community boards pass along information to the community it serves as well as collect the community’s input and hold public meetings on issues that garner lots of public interest. The community board is a conduit where information is passed through from agencies to the community. Unfortunately, CB11 is not adhering to this mandate and is instead a gatekeeper of information that is disseminated only if and when the board deems it, and to whom.

The board members are appointed to facilitate civic engagement and are elected by the people to represent us and make decisions on our behalf. Yet, a few members failed to disclose the 2028 White Plains Road shelter proposal; just as they decided to relocate the 1682 Stillwell Ave. homeless shelter, with no public input or meeting. The board’s opposition to the 1682 Stillwell Ave. shelter proposal was its proximity to schools and homes, yet they relocated it to a site closer to schools and homes at 2443 Poplar St.

CB11 is run as a private association that is funded by taxpayers with more than $500,000. Public gallery sessions are limited to 2 minutes and public input is not taken seriously — there is a lack of transparency. This can explain why CB11’s public meetings have only three or four people from the public in attendance, usually the same people for each meeting. At the board’s public meetings, including the meeting for the 2028 White Plains Road shelter, barely any information or advice was provided. In response to a resident asking the board to advise and inform them of the next step to oppose the shelter, the CB11 chair responded that the community should create a GoFundMe page and hire a lawyer. This response was after the board’s staff didn’t even bother to submit the community’s questions to the city Department of Homeless Services a month after a public hearing on the shelter was held on Feb. 3.

At a recent March board meeting, a board member stated, “…it makes no difference who did what, the bottom line is we got no shelter.” Actually, this is the opportunity to reflect on what is working, what is not, and what changes we need to make in order to hold the board and its staff accountable. Lastly, we need our government to pass laws to regulate the board and hold them accountable when decisions are made without public input, and when decisions are made to benefit only a few at the cost of the whole community — especially when board members have inherent conflict of interests. A lesson unlearned is a lesson repeated.

Roxanne Delgado is the founder of the Friends of Pelham Parkway community organization. 

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