By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
More than 440 residents of Carroll Gardens have signed a petition expressing their dismay with the lack of community input surrounding a homeless shelter for single adults planned for their neighborhood.
At the same time, local officials have protested the project’s lack of details and question possible conflict-of-interest in the murky dealings surrounding the rental of the building from owner Charles Wertman -- a board member of the company submitting the proposal, Housing Solutions USA.
Housing Solutions USA, headed by former Bloomberg official Robert Hess, is submitting a proposal to the Department of Homeless Services to provide housing for 170 people at 165 West 9th Street, a condo building between Court Street and Hamilton Avenue. (See the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s previous story here.)
Building a homeless shelter without any input from local families and businesses is “a top down power move that negates the vibrancy and importance of local residents,” says the petition, filed online at change.org
The petition says, “We have … been told that this is being authorized under an ‘emergency contract’ rule, which only requires 30 days community notice. Under emergency contract rules, there is no formal opportunity for public input, no input from local leaders' offices or the full City Council, and no vote.
“We are not opposing the establishment of shelters or homeless people in the neighborhood and understand the necessity to shelter those who have no roof over their head. But we want to know how the decision to use this building took place, and how it can be designated for 170 men without any community input? If it arrives under an emergency contract rule, how long does such a dictate last? At what point does the ‘emergency’ run out?”
The petition goes on to ask how 170 residents came to be allocated to a building that has only ten units.
Community Board 6 will be hosting a meeting on the proposal on October 24th, 6:30 p.m. at P.S.58, the Carroll School Auditorium 330 Smith Street, between 1st Place & Carroll Street.
In a letter to Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond, Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Brad Lander and Assemblywoman Joan Millman write, “We do not understand how it is possible – or advisable – to squeeze 170 people into a 10-unit building on a block of three-family homes. We have asked this question several times, and received no answer.”
They also ask why construction has been proceeding without a permit, and note that no details of social services or security have been provided.
The officials note the possibility of conflict-of-interest surrounding the rental of the building from Housing Solutions board member Charles Wertman. “Given that the City of New York will pay substantial sums for the rent of the building, this suggests a large potential conflict-of-interest.”
Housing Solutions USA/Aguila Inc. says it provides social services to more than 1,400 homeless families in the Bronx and Manhattan. In a letter to CB 6, CEO Hess said, “We are looking to expand our services to meet the increased demand for safe and supportive transitional housing to help less fortunate individuals achieve a better quality of life and find permanent housing.”
Headquartered in Manhattan, Housing Solutions USA has submitted “numerous separate proposals to municipal authorities in New York City” to approve its operation of family emergency shelters, the company says.
In July, an uproar ensued when Housing Solutions said it would be placing 200 families in buildings in Manhattan at 316 West 95th Street and 330 West 95th Street.
According to New York Press, the Upper Eastsiders said that they “don’t object to housing the homeless in their community, but that they shouldn’t be burdened with a sudden influx of homeless adults when they already have a high number of shelters.”