Three top elected Bronx officials are going head-to-head with Mayor Bloomberg over city plans to site yet another homeless shelter in Wakefield.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Congressman Eliot Engel, and state Senator Jeff Klein oppose the city awarding a $91 million contract to the Doe Fund to operate a homeless shelter in the former Muller Army Reserve Center there.
The proposed 200-bed shelter, at 555 Nereid Avenue near Bronx Boulevard, would be close to two other homeless shelters.
And as Klein pointed out, within a one-mile radius of three other shelters being developed.
Klein and Diaz support moving the Army National Guard unit currently stationed at a building adjoining the Kingsbridge Armory into the Muller Center. The vacated building could then be used for much-needed schools in the district.
The contract for the Doe-run shelter still has to be reviewed by the city Human Resources Administration and the Comptroller’s office.
In a statement sent to a July 19 hearing by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, Engel argued the city did not give the federal government the opportunity to fully explore different options for the Muller Center.
I believe it is a far better use as [home to] a National Guard unit than as a homeless shelter,” said Engel, who noted that “The neighborhood is approaching the saturation point in homeless shelters. This, with a White Plains Road shelter for 60-plus beds and a 100-bed on Bronx Boulevard would total 363 beds in a low-rise, low-density residential area.”
Diaz contended that a meeting he attended in November 23, 2010 with the two other members of the Muller Local Redevelopment Authority – Deputy Mayor Robert Steel and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs – was not a formal meeting with a binding vote, as the administration now claims.
Fr. Richard Gorman, chair of Community Board 12, suggested Diaz consider legal action against the city for harming his reputation, making his constituents think he voted to support the unpopular proposal.
Gorman also argued that the neighborhood would become unfairly over-saturated.
If this were something that everyone in this town was concerned about, homeless shelters should be equally distributed throughout all 59 city community boards, regardless of the cost,” said Gorman. “The over-saturation we have seen in the south Bronx is happening in Wakefield.”
The city maintains that all procedures were followed, with a legal mandate to house all homeless.
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development has approved the Local Redevelopment Authority’s plan to develop the site as a homeless shelter for single adults, including veterans,” said city Department of Homeless Services spokeswoman Heather Janik.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393