On Thursday, March 12, elected officials joined Rockaway Solutions Not Shelters (RSNS), in a press conference calling out New York City and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), for their way of handling the opening of the Beach 101st homeless shelter without a contract.
Organized by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, the press conference took place in her office on Beach 95th Street. Pheffer Amato was joined by Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., District Leader Lew Simon, and RSNS representatives, John Cori, Michael Scala and Torey Schnupp.
Pheffer Amato began the press conference by providing background information regarding the proposal for the shelter. One year ago, there was a hearing with DHS and the City of NY, regarding the possible opening of a shelter. Community members expressed their concerns and disapproval. They explained that the shelter’s location is not only in a school zone with thousands of students, but it is also in the middle of a flood zone. Pheffer Amato explained that our community expressed these concerns, not because they are against helping the homeless population, but because of what our community can handle with lacking infrastructure and resources. Clearly disregarding the community’s concerns, our elected officials were frustrated, but knew that there is a process and as long as they fight hard, eventually DHS and NYC would have to listen. However, despite all efforts against the shelter, there are currently 10 homeless residents living in the shelter on Beach 101st.
Pheffer Amato elaborated on the importance of the City Charter, which she thought would protect our community. According to the City Charter, she stated, “No contract, or agreement, executed pursuant to this charter, or other laws, shall be implemented until one copy has been filed with the comptroller, and either the comptroller has registered it, or 30 days has elapsed from the date of filing.” Pheffer Amato then explained that this means no city dollars can be spent until the contract is registered. However, there is a fully operational shelter in our community despite no contract being signed. The contract was sent to the comptroller’s office on February 20, and they are allowed to review it for 30 days after that date. If the comptroller’s office were to disapprove the contract, then it would be sent back to DHS and the process would be forced to start over again.
After explaining background information regarding the contract regulations, Pheffer Amato asked important questions, stressing how serious and illegal the situation is. She asked, “Who’s paying for these workers currently employed in the shelter? Who’s protecting the workers and the residents? What happens if someone gets hurt, and whose dollars are paying for them?” Pheffer Amato then stated that DHS said this registration of the contract is, “...merely only a formality,” meaning that DHS can force this contract to be registered. She expressed how unacceptable this is because non-elected officials have the final say in how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Following Pheffer Amato, Addabbo then asked the city to simply, “Follow the rules.” Addabbo called out the Mayor’s Administration, asking why some businesses have to follow these contract rules, and now all of a sudden, these rules don’t matter in regard to this homeless shelter. He elaborated on the ULURP process regarding large developments, stating that this process allows for public input. In regard to the homeless shelter on Beach 101st Street, Addabbo expressed how much public input the mayor’s office has received from our community, and yet, they still have not taken it into consideration.
Representatives from RSNS closed the press conference by speaking on behalf of community members that are concerned about the operation of this homeless shelter. They thanked Pheffer Amato and Addabbo for their ongoing support regarding this situation and stressed their frustration with the mayor’s office for not respecting the community’s wishes. Torey Schnupp said, “You have met your match, the moment you laid eyes on Beach 101st Street. We demand answers. We want to know why our city is allowed to break laws, and why they are not being held to the same standards that every city agency must follow.” She continued by stating that moving men into an illegal shelter not only puts these men at risk, but our entire community at risk. As John Cori said, “There’s been a hoax being perpetrated on the people, and especially on the homeless population.”
The press conference concluded with officials asking the city and DHS to remove the existing 10 residents from the shelter and start over. They stressed that they’re not asking for much, but to just follow the rules that are set in the City Charter. Once proper legal measures are taken, and approved, then the shelter should be granted access to operate. But in the meantime, since no official contract has been signed regarding the opening of the shelter, it is illegal for the shelter to be operating. Pheffer Amato and Addabbo will present this information in Albany this week, in hopes of receiving support in urging the City to follow its own rules.
By Marina Cregan
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