Op-Ed | CB11 was non-transparent about planned men’s shelter on White Plains Road

The location of a planned men’s shelter on Poplar Street.
Photo Jason Cohen

“No one told us” was said by many residents in an angry tone upon recently hearing about the 140-bed men’s homeless shelter planned opening this fall at 2028 White Plains Road, also known as 2040 Bronx Park E. This location is commonly referred to by most residents as the Bronxdale Bingo Hall, which is now permanently closed. Most of the residents heard about this shelter from one of the 400 fliers that Friends of Pelham Parkway posted and handed out on Jan. 9.

The city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) sent a notification, dated Oct. 8, 2021, to the local community board’s district manager of its planned men’s shelter opening at White Plains Road. Community Board 11 did not notify the community nor hold any meetings on it. It does seem that the district manager informed many of the sitting community board members, which is why it finally reached me in December as rumored, but not as a concrete plan. Upon request, I received a DHS notification and realized it was a concrete plan happening with no public notice or input.

Can Friends of Pelham Parkway, a dedicated but small group of volunteers, stop the homeless men’s shelter on White Plains Road? Definitely not.

What we are doing is taking upon ourselves the community board’s responsibility to empower our community with information, strategies, partnerships, media outreach and answering people’s questions to the best of our ability.

From public records, we found that 2028 White Plains Owner LLC, incorporated on Aug. 13,2021, bought the old bingo hall for $3.2 million on Sept. 30,2021. The zoning for this property is C8-1, which is for commercial uses. We were told that the lease of the laundromat at this location expires this July. Also, the new owner has a permit for the sidewalk shed as well as for active electric and plumbing work. We were also told that the property is as of right, which means a shelter can be built at the Bronxdale Hall site. How a homeless shelter can be built in a commercial zone confuses us.

Suggested arguments opposing this shelter is its close proximity to schools such as PS 105 and playgrounds such as the Brady Playground. Also, the lack of notice to the public is an issue, as well as the lack of response to the current issues the community deals with daily, including vandalism, loitering and public safety. The community is at its breaking point.

That this will be the third men’s shelter in CB 11, seems unjust and unequal. There is a 200-bed men’s shelter coming to 1364-1400 Blondell Ave., and another 200-bed men’s shelter coming to 2443 Poplar St.

When DHS notified CB11 of the 200-bed men’s shelter in Morris Park and slated for Stillwell Avenue, the board held a meeting with DHS within a month and wrote at least four letters in opposition, based on its proximity to a school. Later that year, DHS had this Morris Park shelter relocated to 2443 Poplar St., per the request of CB11. Allegations were reported later that the board and council member had this location steered for other reasons.

How the board handled the bingo hall shelter differently compared to the proactive handling of the proposed Morris Park shelter concerns us the most. The board did not notify the community of the homeless shelter planned for the closed bingo hall. Also, the board took no action in opposition to this location and no public discussions or meetings were held on this shelter until a recent housing committee meeting on Jan. 11. A public meeting with DHS was scheduled for Feb. 3, four months after DHS notified the board of its initial plan. CB11 did not offer any alternative locations. And we strongly believe that one of the two shelters slated for Blondell Avenue and Poplar Street has been steered to the bingo hall.

The community must immediately address this planned men’s shelter at 2028 White Plains Road. A united community can stop this shelter by holding our council member accountable. The long-term concern is the politics and self-interest that influences CB11 without any accountability, and the 2028 White Plains Road shelter status is one of symptoms of this disarray.

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