Despite intense community opposition, Muller Center homeless housing may actually be a done deal.
At a hearing on Wednesday, June 22 in the P.S. 21 auditorium, residents of Wakefield and Woodlawn, as well as representatives of elected officials, blasted the plan for a third homeless housing facility for the nearby area.
Although the public hearing was held, it now appears that, according to the mayor, a vote in favor of housing 200 homeless men at the Muller Army Reserve Center, located at 555 Nereid Avenue, took place in November 2010.
Upon hearing that he had been excluded from the vote of the Muller Local Redevelopment Authority, a three-person panel of which Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is a member, Diaz blasted the administration on Thursday, June 30.
“It is crystal clear that the mayor’s office had no intention of ever really listening to the Bronx community on this issue,” Diaz said. “Despite close to 350 attendees at last week’s hearing, all of whom voiced opposition to the plan, the Bloomberg administration is ignoring the clear will of the public and pretending that a vote took place last year.”
An informal meeting between Diaz and other LRA members did take place around the end of 2010, said Fr. Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12, but he believes that it was only to discuss differences of opinion for the future use of the Muller Center.
“It is my understanding that no formal meeting was convened,” Gorman said. “I don’t understand why the city would hold a public hearing on June 22 if a vote already took place in November. I think that the mayor is trying to pull a quick one.”
The borough president offered testimony at the June 22 hearing along with representatives from Congressman Elliot Engel, Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, and Councilman Oliver Koppell and Gorman, who all called for the Muller Center to be used to house the National Guard units to clear space in the Kingsbridge Armory annex for the construction of new schools.
“If they are going to turn around and say that the vote took place in November, then the borough president would have to be an incredible liar, which I do not believe is true,” Gorman said. “If they had a vote in November, representatives from the administration should have been honest and upfront and told the crowd at the hearing that they would listen to what they had to say, but that a decision had already been made.”
Both Diaz and Gorman said that the only other option that could block the opening of the homeless facility might be to take legal action against the city.
“Everyone, with the exception of the Bloomberg Administration, believes that the Muller facility should be used to house National Guard units from the Kingsbridge Armory, freeing up their current home for public school construction,” Diaz said. “That the administration has not only ignored this recommendation, but is inventing meetings and votes to justify their position. It is both an act of delusional desperation and a slap in the face to the Bronx.”
The Department of Homeless Services did not respond to calls for comment as of press time.