Riverdale community furious over controversial men’s shelter proposal

The site of a proposed shelter at 6661 Broadway in Riverdale has drawn calls for a formal city investigation from the father-son Dinowitzes, who cite lack of transparency.
Photo Adrian Childress

More than 400 Riverdale residents packed a Zoom meeting in opposition to a proposed men’s shelter in the community.

On Oct. 13, the NYC Department of Social Services (DSS) presented its plans to the Community Board 8 Health, Hospitals and Social Services Committee to construct a 130-bed single men’s shelter at 6661 Broadway, where it will house four to six people in dorm-style rooms.

The shelter would be serviced by the African American Planing Commission Inc. (AAPCI) and is anticipated to be ready in the fall of 2023. Currently, there is only one DSS and city Department of Homeless Services shelter facility within the Bronx Community Board 8 district, which serves families with children.

Throughout the meeting the consensus was that this shelter would bring crime into the neighborhood.

“This is not making me feel safe,” said resident Julissa Freire, who told the committee that she understands the need to help people, but that the community must be consulted before these projects are designed, not after.

Community Board 8 member Laura Spialter is worried the shelter will house drug addicts, people with mental health issues and sex offenders, and could be dangerous to the neighborhood. According to Spialter, it is a problem that DSS can only access criminal records of sex offenders and not other people who may past criminal histories.

The site of a proposed single men’s shelter in Riverdale that would house 130 beds. Photo Pablo D. Castillo Jr.

But safety was not the only concern on the part of residents in the area.

Sean Murray, a small landlord in the Bronx, said the shelter will bring property values down. Murray told the committee that a single men’s shelter will destroy Riverdale and he is ready to leave the community.

“I’m not waiting for this neighborhood to crumble,” he said.

Some elected officials were also staunchly against the proposed shelter. Democrats New York State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and New York City Councilman Eric Dinowitz both voiced opposition to the facility.

Jeffrey Dinowitz said the “proposal already seems like a done deal.” He added that the city government is supposed to be transparent and work with the community, not against it. He is also concerned that there will not be 24/7 on-site services at the site and that past shelters in his district have had a history of crime, such as Project Renewal, where a former resident killed the shelter manager in 2015.

Additionally, as the city has recently cut ties with multiple nonprofit providers, Jeffrey Dinowitz was quite alarmed to learn that the city would be paying AAPCI $6.5 million a year.

“I am very concerned about the proposal, not least of which is the opaque and top-down method that the Department of Homeless Services has used to come up with this plan,” he said. “This shelter should not be built, and I stand with my neighbors in opposition.”

The proposed shelter would include case management, individual and group counseling, permanency planning and housing placement assistance, support groups, independent living and life skills workshops, and support in finding and securing employment. Off-site service linkages will include, but will not be limited to, primary healthcare, health/mental health services, referrals to substance use treatment, vocational training, employment placement, GED instruction, conflict mediation and legal services.

AAPCI would provide on-site security around the-clock. A minimum of two security officers would be located at the building entrance to control building access and to monitor security cameras, which will be located throughout the building and grounds. Staffing would consist of a minimum of three security guards per shift and one additional supervisor per shift. As an added measure, a total of at least 42 security cameras would be installed throughout the building and across the shelter grounds.

The issue is expected to be discussed further by the Community Board 8 Land Use Committee and the full Community Board 8 later this month.

Reach Jason Cohen at jcohen@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.