Outrage as Kingsbridge building eyed as a shelter

Outrage as Kingsbridge building eyed as a shelter
Arthur Cusano

Kingsbridge residents and elected officials are outraged after learning a newly constructed mixed-use building on Broadway in Kingsbridge may be converted to a homeless shelter.

The seven-story building, located at 5731 Broadway right next door to the 50th Precinct headquarters, had been recently advertised as a residential market-rate building by its developer, the Stagg Group.

But Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said officials from the NYC Department of Homeless Services told him Friday the building was now being planned as a shelter for approximately 80 homeless families run by the not-for-profit PRAXIS Housing Initiatives L.L.C.

“People are really upset that it was a ‘bait and switch’,” Dinowitz said. “We were told one thing and now something else is happening. Most of us don’t like to be lied to, and I feel we were lied to.”

Dinowitz said that the city had not been forthcoming in the past when creating other area shelters, such as the Van Cortlandt Motel located further north on Broadway.

He also accused the Stagg Group of abruptly turning other buildings into homeless shelters in recent years.

The company is currently finishing a similar-sized building, ‘The Equestrian’, at 1680 Pelham Parkway being advertised as luxury apartments.

“What this shows is that anytime a new building goes up in a neighborhood, it could become a homeless shelter,” Dinowitz said.

The building, first announced in 2014, was planned as an apartment building with 90 units and 20,000 feet of medical office space.

The developer had gone as far as accepting applications for the units in recent months.

Many storeowners approached said they were unaware of the new plans for the building.

An employee at the Stop & Shop directly across the street who asked not to be named said she had actually applied for an apartment, and said she was not informed of the change.

Another store employee said they were concerned about an increase in shoplifters.

However Altagracie Pena, the manager of the Leche Y Miel restaurant, said she was not concerned if homeless families moved in.

Councilman Andrew Cohen also released a statement voicing concern the building will hurt the burgeoning business district and bring an influx of children into the already overcrowded schools like nearby P.S. 7.

“We as a community have been trying to improve the business climate on the southern end of Broadway and strengthen the residential portion of the northern end,” Cohen said. “The Department of Homeless Services seems committed to destroying that effort.”

Calls to the DHS for comment were not immediately returned.

Stagg Group owner Mark Stagg said he was not commenting on the project for the time being.

“We’re really not involved, it’s not really us -the city of New York has approached us,” Stagg said. “But we will make an official statement soon. We’re just finishing a great building in a wonderful neighborhood, and we’re excited about it.”

Local residents interviewed said they were shocked to hear about the plans, and questioned whether the location was appropriate.

“That’s horrible,” said Oliva Davila. “I thought it was going to be a regular apartment building. How can they keep it a secret like that? They don’t want people to know, or to protest.”

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.