Thursday, March 5, 2009

Koppell 'Not Optimistic' About Revoking Shelter Contracts

Councilmember Koppell (left) addressing Bronx residents at last evening's
Bedford Mosholu Community Association meeting.

Last evening's Bedford Mosholu Community Association meeting was a fruitful one. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Councilperson Oliver Koppell was in attendance to learn more about the concerns of the residents of the Bedford Park/Norwood area of the BoogieDown.

Number one among residents' concerns was, not surprisingly, the recent uptick of temporary homeless shelters popping up in existing residential buildings (as first reported by Norwood News, and later covered by the Bronx Times and New York Times) in Bedford Park.

When questioned regarding possible steps the community might be able to take to persuade DHS to revoke the shelter contracts at 3001 Briggs Avenue and 15-19 Mosholu Parkway, Councilmember Koppell simply stated that he was "not optimistic" that there was any way of revoking the existing contracts. He also said he believes that cluster housing is a city-wide issue which needs to be studied to prevent systematic problems, and promised to ask Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Bill de Blasio, who is chairman of the General Welfare committee, to schedule a hearing to examine it.

One particular detail related to cluster housing Councilmember Koppell stressed is the importance of the ratio of temporary shelter units in a building, saying, "If it's 30 out of 50 units in a building, then you are changing the character of the building."

I was happy to see an elected official present at the BMCA meeting to discuss community issues with constituents. However, it would have been a tad more uplifting if Councilmember Koppell encouraged residents to continue to fight for the termination of the existing contracts of Bedford Park's newly created temporary shelters. After all, there have been accusations that long-time Section 8 residents of the affected buildings were forced out by the landlords to make way for the DHS units, which bring in an above-market-rate rental income of almost $3,000/month.

This blogger wonders... would transitional housing for the homeless pop up in Councilmember Koppell's shee-shee-foo-foo landmarked Fieldston neighborhood of Riverdale? And if shelters did make their way over there in the stealth of the night and without proper notification to the community, would Councilmember Koppell not fight tooth and nail to have the contracts revoked?

Well, on that note, I'd like to report that Tony Perez Cassino, who's running for the Council seat currently held by Koppell, was present at the meeting as well. After the meeting, Tony made a point of shaking hands, giving out business cards, and talking to community members about their biggest concerns for the neighborhood.

Another notable attendee of the meeting was Democratic State Commiteeman Joseph McManus - 80th AD.



Gregory Lobo Jost said...

I'm curious, did Cassino seem to have a position on the issue? What do you think his overall take was of the situation and of Koppell's response?

Boogiedowner said...

Tony seemed to think (and don't quote me on this, but this is the impression I got from speaking with him) that if you stop fighting and don't push for the existing contracts to be overturned, you run the risk of giving the City the impression that what is happening is acceptable (and therefore possibly paving the way for more cluster housing).

Tony said...

Gregory, thanks for your question. My position is that i strongly oppose temporary shelters in residential buildings.I don't think it is fair to residents who live there and it will destroy solid housing stock and a neighborhood. We have heard that landlords are now trying to push current residents out to get more of these contracts. Besides some of these buildings have multiple violations--why should we reward that? I also look at it this way, would Koppell support this arrangement if it was tried in Riverdale? There was talk at the meeting of give backs to the community in exchange for having this site--these are things the community should have already or should get without a tradeoff. For those reasons I strongly oppose it.