Despite numerous attempts to rid a homeless shelter/affordable housing site in Fordham, hundreds of residents at a nearby cooperative will have to get used to the site and its occupants, whether they like it or not.
Still, residents at Fordham Hill Owners Corporation expressed continued outraged for Fordham Landing, the homeless shelter and affordable housing site slated to open in December. An Oct. 25 town hall meeting took place between the corporation’s community engagement community and representatives from the New York City Department of Homeless Services and Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), with executive director Muzzy Rosenblatt on hand.
“We’re here to answer all the concerns, to listen to all of the concerns of the community and to hear the answers that both the agency has as well as the provider,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera, serving as moderator. Assembly members Victor Pichardo and Jose Rivera, who lives at the complex, were also on hand. The panel consisted of Rosenblatt and DHS representatives Jackie Gray and Iris Rodriguez. Senator Gustavo Rivera of the 33rd District moderated the town hall.
Locals, including Community Board 7 members, took to the mic to ask various questions, including whether there was a curfew for residents, and whether it was too late for the shelter’s demographic to be changed. They also inquired whether Megan’s Law, which requires convicted sex offenders to register with New York State, applies.
The shelter/affordable housing site is located at 233 Landing Rd., a block and half from the nine-building complex on Sedgwick Avenue and West Fordham Road. The de Blasio administration has favored the shelter model over the cluster site model, which puts the homeless in apartment buildings. Before taking questions and addressing concerns, DHS emphasized the department’s goal in closing cluster sites.
Before taking questions and addressing concerns, DHS made a statement about the department’s aim to close cluster sites.
“This February, the mayor announced a plan to really improve and reimagine the shelters,” said Gray. “We made a commitment to shrink the DHS footprint by 45 percent, to close 360 facilities city-wide. We made commitments to get out all cluster sites.”
“The shelter we’re opening has employable folks,” said Rodriguez after a local baseball coach expressed worry for the shelter’s inhabitants wandering the streets during the day. “As Muzzy said, we’re here to provide service to everyone — not only to our clients, but to the community.”
Myrna Calderon, president of Fordham Hill Owners Cooperative Board of Directors, brought up the lack of communication between BRC and DHS and stakeholders, particularly schools in the area.
“Fordham Hill is not against shelters or homeless families,” said Calderon. “We do understand there is a homelessness problem. We do understand that we have to do our part. The problem is not that you put a shelter here. The problem is if you had bothered to have engaged the community, you would have realized this was not the best location.”
Rosenblatt and BRC representatives came to Community Board 7 in 2014 announcing plans for a shelter. It did not receive support from the community.
Calderon brought attention to Fordham Landing Playground, saying that because it was a very small park in the neighborhood it was being overutilized and that the shelter with more than 200 residents would further exacerbate the problem.
DHS reiterated gratitude for an invitation to the town hall while debunking rumors and myths about Megan’s Law, establishing the fact that BRC welcomes veterans into the shelter and echoing that there will be round-the-clock security for the shelter. The department also announced that an advisory committee meeting will be held on the last Wednesday in January.
“BRC will always consider concerns of and suggestions from the community. That is our practice throughout the city and we have been responsive,” Rosenblatt told the Norwood News. “To facilitate that, and for that purpose, beginning in January we will hold quarterly meetings open to the public. The meetings for 2018 will be January 31, April 25, July 25, and October 24. They will start at 6p at the shelter.”