Officials Object to Placement of 400 Homeless in UWS Buildings

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By Paul Bisceglio When the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) announced in July that it would soon move 200 homeless families into two residential West 95th Street Buildings, community members, elected officials and Community Board 7 (CB7) objected. The buildings were designed as single room occupancy units for low income residents, they argued, and were not equipped to provide treatment for the homeless' large population of addicts and the mentally ill. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Member Gale Brewer, Assembly member Linda Rosenthal and Community Board 7 chair Mark Diller sent a letter to DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond at the time asking him to suspend efforts to place the homeless families in the two buildings, 316 and 330 West 95th Street. Yesterday, DHS decided not to listen. The Department moved 10 of the families into the former building, with plans to add the remaining 190 ? a total of over 400 new residents ? to both buildings over the next few months, according to Diamond. "We're absolutely furious about it," one of the buildings' 71 existing residents told New York Post. "No one was told anything at all." Now, Stringer, Brewer and Rosenthal are joining with State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Community Board 7 and Upper West Side residents in calling on DHS again to suspend immediately all efforts to refer clients to the buildings.

"[T]he proposal to house 200 adults, who are currently homeless, in 100 tiny rooms at 316 and 330 West 95 Street on a temporary basis is poor planning, poor policy, and includes little if any transparency," said Brewer in a statement. "The process should have included a substantive planning discussion with Community Board 7, elected officials, current residents of the two buildings, and responsible neighborhood leaders to find a solution to the need for shelter for homeless individuals."
Stringer agreed. "New Yorkers understand that all neighborhoods share in the responsibility to provide housing to those in need," he said in a statement. "But abruptly moving a 400-person shelter into a residential neighborhood in the dead of summer with no community consultation, no contract and no long-term plan only creates bad will and sets back the cause of fighting homelessness."
"By failing to conduct a dialogue with the community and the elected officials who represent it," said Rosenthal, "DHS and its former commissioner Robert Hess have disrespected thoroughly this neighborhood."

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