Officials still unheard on Wakefield shelters

Senator Jeff Klein and other officials continue to go unheard on their concerns over plans to open four new homeless shelters in Wakefield. They are less than pleased.

“The system stinks,” declared Father Richard Gorman, the chairman of Community Board 12, about plans that CB 12 and officials like Klein oppose, but seem powerless to stop. “They give the appearance of consultation, but there is no consultation.”

Gorman said that of the four homeless shelters he and CB 12 got wind of a few months back, the one set to open on 4339 White Plains Road, to be built by Praxis Housing Initiatives, is an as-of-right situation. “That means when they told the community board that they were coming, they already knew it was a done deal and they were approved. We had no say,” said Gorman.

The other three are still in the works, but Gorman said he has seen no indication that their efforts have halted plans.

The second shelter is proposed by Project Renewal and would go in at 4380 Bronx Boulevard, across from the recently vacated Muller Army Reserve Center at 555 E. 238th Street. The DOE Fund wants to use the Muller space for housing for an additional 200 homeless veterans. Gorman said that in the case of the Project Renewal shelter, “We have not heard anything from them since our initial contact in February.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who is also aggravated over the saturation of shelters in the area, supports a different idea for the Muller space.

“It’s been suggested as a site for the National Guard,” he said. “That seems like a no-brainer. It’d be easier for there to be schools at the site of the Kingsbridge Armory, we would find an appropriate place for the National Guard, and also, it wouldn’t be used as a homeless shelter.”

The fourth shelter, proposed by M&M Dames, would house abused women and children at 3988 Bronxwood Avenue.

As for this proposed shelter, Gorman said, “The guy is very hard to reach and we haven’t heard from him, we don’t know what his plans are. As far as the DOE fund, which would be across from the project renewal in the Muller center, I did speak to them a month ago and I expressed concerns, and we don’t know if it really changed anything. We have to assume all these places are looking to move forward.”

Senator Klein was tired of waiting around and took the matter into his own hands with a long letter to Mayor Bloomberg. “Wakefield cannot bear the impact of potentially four shelters within a radius of just a few blocks,” he said. “That is why I sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg strongly urging the city to make sure that the Bronx, and Community Board 12 in particular, is shouldering only its equitable share of the burden associated with these facilities.”

In his letter, Klein wrote that “It is fundamentally unfair to allow a community to be inundated with homeless housing facilities because the City of New York has failed to consider the totality of the impact on the community,” and also noted that he believes any neighborhood would be “indelibly changed” by such an influx of shelters.

Still, he hasn’t received any positive response.

“My office spoke with DHS after sending that letter,” Klein said, “and oversaturation is sadly not something they are taking into account.”

Dinowitz said he’s not going to give up this fight just yet.

“The city is dumping on Wakefield. I am very, very concerned.”

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