Shelter opponents want a copy of DHS contract
by Benjamin Fang
Nov 19, 2019 | 1847 views | 0 0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two weeks ago, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services hosted a public hearing on the contract awarded to Westhab to operate a 200-men homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Avenue.

Several community members, including Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano, testified against the shelter.

At last week’s CB5 meeting, Giordano said he requested that the contract not approved, and the residence not be established, for four reasons.

First, the site is within walking distance to six schools, a girls’ gym, dance studio, youth sports facility and daycare center less than a block away.

“Locating a homeless shelter residence at 78-16 Cooper Avenue certainly poses serious risks for children and teenagers in the nearby area,” he said.

The second reason is that the property is located in an M1-4 zone, which did not permit residential leases until the recent hotel zoning text amendment was passed.

Next, Giordano said the size of the proposed homeless shelter for 200 men is “much too large” for a community of one- and two-family homes.

Finally, he noted that the $61,880,000 contract over five-and-a-half years translates into the city paying $4,682 per person per month to house and provide services for the men.

“It seems quite outlandish to me,” he said.

Holden said he sent his staff with Giordano to review the contract. Both highlighted that the contract only provides for 88 beds, which gave them pause considering it’s meant to house 200 men.

The councilman said the contract did not list an operating budget among other important information.

Though Holden requested that the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) provide him a copy of the contract, the agency has not done so. He said DHS is “bound by law” to give an elected official a copy of the contract.

“So far, they’ve refused to do that,” he said. “We’ve challenged them with our City Council attorneys.”

Holden then alluded to the lawsuits filed by the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition in an attempt to stop the shelter from opening.

“There are a lot of things they did that was really wrong in this situation,” he said.

“It’s not over, folks,” Holden added. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

Giordano also said he hopes the lawsuits are successful.

“But we have to keep at this,” he said. “They want shelters that are much larger than any community can cope with at a single site.”

A DHS spokesperson said the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services sets the procedure for public contract hearings, including having draft copies of proposed contracts available for “public inspection” at the city agency.

DHS offers a pre-public hearing review of the contract in its offices, which goes beyond the requirements in the city charter, the spokesperson added.

Once a contract is finalized, signed and registered, it becomes a public document. At this point in the process, a copy of the registered contract can be requested via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIL), the spokesperson said.

As for the reported contract dollar amount, the figures are not finalized, the spokesperson said, as the budget negotiation process is ongoing.

“Homelessness doesn’t discriminate, it impacts every community across the five boroughs, including Queens Community District 5, where there are currently no shelters to serve New Yorkers from this community who fall on hard times,” read a statement.

“We look forward to providing these vital resources, including shelter and employment services, to hardworking New Yorkers experiencing homelessness from Queens,” the spokesperson added, “and are confident that, working together with neighbors and elected officials, we will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet.”
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