Construction of a 200-bed men’s transient shelter and health care clinic that’s set for construction in the Westchester Square section won’t be completed until 2024 after the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found toxic chemicals and contaminants at a nearby abandoned auto yard.
The former Boyle Auto Wreckers Site — located at 1346 Blondell Ave. — is scheduled for site remediation this summer, which includes the removal of polluted or contaminated soil, sediment, surface water or groundwater, to reduce the impact on people or the environment. According to the DEC’s assessment, the former trucking site was closed by the state Department of Environmental Protection due to gasoline and waste oil spills, and regular tire-burning, which contaminated the quality of the air in October 1997.
Officials from the city’s Department of Homeless Services said they notified residents about the shelter plans and a possible delayed opening on Jan. 29, 2020, but some residents told the Bronx Times they never received notification about the new timeline.
DEC officials told the Bronx Times that the five lot, 1064-acre site at 1346 Blondell Ave. — which DEC assessed in 2018 and found had contaminants such as lead, mercury and other air and soil pollutants — will need significant treatment to the groundwater before the shelter’s construction.
In August 2020, Foremost Real Estate under the 1400 Blondell LLC, filed permits with the city Department of Buildings to construct a 3-story building for a transient shelter and health care clinic at 1374 Blondell Ave., in Westchester Square.
The facility is expected to stand around 44-feet tall, stretch across 1364-1400 Blondell Ave., include 18 units, and have 31,362 square feet for commercial space and 3,013 square feet for community facility space.
Additionally, some residents believe that the Blondell Avenue shelter is misplaced in their district and fear that the contaminated 1346 Blondell site is a risk to anyone in the area.
“I am not against homeless shelters. I myself was homeless for two years as a teenager,” said Westchester Square-Zerega Improvement Organization Director Sandi Lusk. “However, the super-duper ultra concentration of these kind of facilities between only a few blocks is a disgrace. It’s criminal, and it’s deliberately targeting this community.”
The shelter, which was initially slated to open in 2021, is officially located in Community District 11, but Westchester Square, which is split between three community district boundary lines, is also across the street from Community District 10.
A second 200-bed men’s shelter proposal in the Westchester Square section, also in CD 11 on Poplar Street, has also drawn residential backlash due to its siting location near Easterseals Bronx Child Development Center, which caters services to roughly 200 young children with disabilities.
Bronx CD11 is the only Bronx district that doesn’t have a currently operational shelter, and NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) officials told the Times that they will be prioritizing placement of individuals from the Bronx, particularly CD11, at the Blondell residence. NYC-based nonprofit Care for the Homeless will be tasked with overseeing the shelter’s day-to-day operations, according to DHS.
“Whenever DSS-DHS approves a proposal for a shelter, the only result we accept is a finished product that is ready for occupancy, operated by a qualified not-for-profit provider-partner, offering the services and supports that meet the high standards we seek to provide to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness,” said a DSS spokesperson in a statement. “As with all DSS-DHS facilities, we will ensure that this facility complies with relevant laws, rules, and regulations, including City and State safety requirements and environmental reviews.”
According to DHS officials, there are 14,300 individuals experiencing homelessness and residing in shelters in the Bronx, and by their last count, which is November 2021, there were 105 DHS shelter locations.
The 1346 Blondell site has been used for a variety of purposes since the late 19th century, when it was originally developed with several small residential homes in the late 1800s. It was converted to commercial use around 1929-1930, when the current commercial building was constructed.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at email@example.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.