While the peninsula has been dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, the
New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) appears to have
doubled down on its efforts to circumvent the usual process of siting
its shelter facilities.
The Wave has been monitoring the $40 million contract process between
the NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, DHS, and the non-profit Black
Veterans for Social Justice (BVSJ). On April 1, we reached out to
Stringer’s office to learn if the comptroller had signed the contract,
which would clear the shelter for full operation.
“After the Administration suspended procurement rules for essential
services during the COVID-19 crisis, the City withdrew the contract from
our office to process the registration themselves,” said Hazel
Crampton-Hays, Press Secretary for the Comptroller’s office.
We reached out to attorney Mike Scala, who is representing Rockaway
Solutions Not Shelters (RSNS) in their fight against DHS. RSNS believes
the shelter is a violation under the state’s mental hygiene law.
“While we understand the population of this facility would be 120
single men, a community residence for the mentally disabled requires the
approval of the commissioner of mental health,” Scala said.
cannot be granted if more than 48 congregate beds are located on the
premises. Therefore, it is critical to determine whether this facility
would house mentally ill men.”
The original application for the conversion of the manufacturing
building into a conforming community facility was listed in parentheses
as a “health and mental care facility” before it was revised.
Founding member of RSNS Torey Schnupp — who is running for Assembly District Leader — is frustrated with the latest development.
“I was informed by my contact at Stringer’s office on the 30th day
that the Mayor had bypassed procurement laws for health and human
service contracts. They apparently had requested more information from
DHS to address both community concerns and Stringer’s own concerns the
week before, but DHS didn’t respond prior to the crisis happening and
Mr. Stringer’s office wasn’t certain DHS would bother addressing them
right now,” said Schnupp. “In the wake of COVID it’s even more clear
that placing additional people in need on a peninsula that is
ill-equipped to handle this crisis is not only careless but dangerous.
The mayor once again has chosen to bypass the process and we know that
social distancing in homeless shelters is impossible. He doesn’t truly
care about this vulnerable population or he would have used budgeting
for proper housing and services a long time ago instead of padding the
shelter developers’ pockets. We are hopeful that the courts will decide
in our favor.”