Van Nest shelter withdraws interest

Van Nest residents gathered on Taylor Avenue in September to protest Metro Safe Housing’s plan to bring transitional housing to the neighborhood.
File photo

A company which sought to put transitional housing in Van Nest has pulled the plug on its plans following protests from the community, its CEO confirmed.

Metro Safe Housing, which houses individuals referred by NYC Human Resources Administration in Emergency Placement Units at four locations in the Bronx, had expressed an intent to convert a 4-family home at 1632 Taylor Avenue into a transitional housing facility earlier this fall.

After the plan was brought to Community Board 11 in September, the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance organized a protest. The residents adopted the slogan “Invest in families, not facilities,” to make their view known.

Members of the VNNA and residents of Taylor Avenue told the Bronx Times in September that the neighborhood is vulnerable, and they were concerned that the temporary residents would bring more instability to the street. They were also concerned the company’s short track record—it was founded less than a year ago.

They brought these concerns to a public hearing at CB 11 on Thursday, November 20.

“We are desperately trying to build a critical mass of working families to better the community,” said Sharlene Jackson Mendez, VNNA member and Taylor Avenue resident. “This shelter undermines that.”

Although Metro Safe Housing promised to screen potential residents, as well as address any issues in the neighborhood involving their residents, Jackson said she doesn’t trust that the company can follow through on those assurances.

“We can’t take that chance,” she said.

Other residents echoed Jackson’s concerns, after which the board unanimously voted to formally oppose the shelter at 1632 Taylor Avenue and send a letter expressing their disapproval to all stakeholders.

Although the board had also recently opposed another group home in Van Nest, CB 11 vice chair Al D’Angelo said the board is not against all shelters or group homes, but instead they want the incoming facilities to primarily serve people in the neighborhood.

The individuals referred to Metro Safe Housing by NYC Human Resources Administration would have come from all over the city.

“We’re not against a shelter if they’re sheltering our own people,” said D’Angelo

The CEO of Metro Safe Housing, Fred Ardehali, did not attend the public hearing, but later told the Bronx Times that he decided to pull the project because he felt the community was disrespectful.

He was angered by the protest in September, which he said was unauthorized and left flyers all over the property in question.

Metro Safe Housing would have created a more stable situation on Taylor Avenue, Ardehali claims, with security cameras and increased attention paid to the street.

The company has helped to improve the other streets in the Bronx where it has similar projects, he said.

“We were going to be helping the community,” said Ardehali. “It’s a bad neighborhood that needs to be cleaned up.”

But in the end, Ardehali said he felt it wasn’t worth continuing to argue with the community.

“It didn’t make sense to go against a group of people who weren’t listening to what was being said,” said Ardehali.

The community board is considering the outcome as a victory, said chairman Tony Vitaliano, since Metro Safe Housing was unable to convince them that the company was a good fit for the community.

Ardehali couldn’t tell the board what types of people would be living at the facility, or for how long, said Vitaliano, and in general was not responsive to the community’s concerns.

“They didn’t do anything right, in our eyes,” he said.

He is glad the situation had a positive outcome.

“I’m happy for Van Nest,” he said.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwill‌iams@‌cnglo‌cal.com.

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