Wakefield Muller Center homeless may wind up in court

Wakefield residents are still smarting over what one local activist has termed a “homeless colony” coming to the community.

Three homeless shelter operators are gearing up to open new shelters or housing for the formerly homeless there.

And as the community fights saturation, the status of the Muller Army Reserve Center as a fourth site seems to have been decided.

But the borough president’s office is contemplating legal action against the city to block the shelter at Muller, saying that the process by which the government owned property was designated a shelter was flawed.

“Our office continues to examine our options, including legal options, concerning the future of the Muller Army Reserve Center in Wakefield,” said John DeSio, communications director for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Father Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12 said Diaz is looking for a lawyer to argue the case against siting the fourth shelter – a 200-bed barracks-style facility run by the DOE Fund there.

The city contends that a vote on the deal by the city’s Local Development Corporation legally took place and that Diaz was present. Diaz disputes attending any meeting where a vote was held.

“The borough president maintains that he did not approve any kind of shelter going into [the Muller Center], and that he did not go to any meeting with any intention of taking a vote for that,” Gorman said of a possible legal fight in federal court to block the siting of the shelter at the former federal building.

One of the challenges in finding an attorney to take on the Bloomberg administration and Department of Homeless Services in federal court is that unlike in state court, federal judges decide when cases end. Plaintiffs may not withdraw their complaints without a judge’s permission, said Gorman.

The city has taken possession of the Muller Center, and already entered into a contract with the DOE Fund to operate the facility, said Gorman.

Three other homeless shelters or facilities serving formerly homeless are in the works, including 60 units at 4339 White Plains Road run by Praxis, approximately 60 units operated by Acacia, formerly Basics Housing, at White Plains Road and East 236 Street, and a former warehouse on Bronx Boulevard almost directly across from the former Muller Center that should house at least about 100 units run by Project Renewal, said Gorman.

The Department of Homeless Services did not return calls for comment as of press time.

“I am going to be stuck with a homeless colony in Wakefield,” said Gorman. “It is going to destroy Wakefield and also affects Woodlawn and the McClean Heights neighborhood of Yonkers…nobody wants 500 homeless living within a 10 minute walk of you.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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