Saturday, October 13, 2012

Carroll Gardeners Petitioning For Input And Due Process In Regards To Proposed Homeless Shelter

graphic by Jeff Anzulewicz at

About fifty Carroll Gardens residents, who live in close proximity to the proposed 170 homeless shelter at 165 West 9th Street, met last night with a representative of Councilman Brad Lander's office to gather more information about the plan. Though some of their questions were answered, it was clear that much remains to be learned about the proposal as well as about Housing Solutions USA/Aguila Inc., the Bronx-based non-profit company who will be running the program.

The concerns expressed by the residents were absolutely reasonable and dealt more with the fact that the community was never part of the conversation and that they were not given the opportunity to help plan for the integration of the shelter into the community. 
However, the biggest concerns stems from the sheer number of homeless men who will be squeezed into a 10-unit building that has been plagued by problems since it was constructed in 2002.
"That is not right to them. It's not right to us, " said Kevin Duffy, one of the residents in attendance. 

A petition is now being circulated in the neighborhood.  It reads:

"Community input and due process are part of the building blocks of our local democracies. The redesignation of buildings without any community input in a neighborhood full of concerned residents, families and local businesses seems to negate their role in community development and is a top down power move that negates the vibrancy and importance of local residents."
Dear Elected Official, 
We are writing as residents, neighbors, Business Owners, Parents and property owners in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. We have only just been informed that Housing Solutions USA, a social services organization intends – in partnership with the NYC Department of Homeless Services – to open a 170-bed homeless shelter for men at 165 West 9th Street, between Court Street & Hamilton Avenue, in Carroll Gardens. A ten unit condo building that was built in the 1990s.

We have also 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 my office or the full City Council, and no vote.

Our concern is the lack of due process and community input for this venture before its arrival. We are demanding a process whereby we can meet with elected officials and understand how these decisions that affect our neighborhood have been made and we have the opportunity to be heard and take a role in this process. 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 proposed Shelter is in a ten unit condo building that has remained vacant or partially occupied since its construction due to its poor quality of construction and other problems. It is located in a residential neighborhood of mostly two to three story houses. The neighborhood is a family area with small locally owned and run businesses. We prize diversity of all sorts. But why would this building not be allocated to homeless families with children who could benefit from the excellent public school for example? How did the number of 170 come to be allocated to a building that has ten units.

We cannot understand how the process of local democracy and neighborhood revitalization can take place if the DSS and city services can essentially redesignate the use of buildings with only 30 days notice to the very community where it plans to establish itself. Moreover the community deserve more explanation and input on a matter that has broad scale implications for its development.
You can find the petition here.

And don't forget that there will be an informational meeting on this matter on October 24th.
The information is here. I will post more information in the next few days, so stay tuned.

If you would like to print some fliers regarding the community meeting so that you can distribute to neighbors, click here: .


Anonymous said...

Housing Solutions USA plans to operate a shelter for individuals at 9th Street but they have no experience running shelters for individuals. They currently only operate shelters for families which are much easier to operate than shelters for individuals and don't have many of the issues that go along with shelters for individuals. Their lack of experience creates too much of a risk to the community because a poorly run shelter for individuals will inflict great harm to the community and its residents. Go to their website at and you'll see that every one of their shelters is identified as being for families, not individuals. So it's either true that they have no experience with shelters for individuals or they are lying about the true nature of their current shelters. Either answer should disqualify them from operating a shelter in our community.

Anonymous said...

Excellent coverage on the issue by Andrew Rice here:

Fair, balanced and well informed coverage.

Michael Reiss said...

Solutions, please, Anonymous People. You are still whining in the wind, like hungry ghosts. You should help and deliberate, rather than dancing around the issue with thinly-veiled animosity and this unique elitist brand of resistance.

This false and manufactured righteousness is people resisting what has been brushed under the rug for so long. Now that the homeless problem is spilling over in every neighborhood and every part of New York and elsewhere as we can see - and our inept city tries to jam 170 people into a space not big enough for them - now you are finally seeing the issue in broad daylight. But many of you ignored it for so long, all you have to say is... "not on my watch" or "not in my community".

Try appealing for a reduction in the number of people in the building and petition for yet another shelter and some actual low-income housing. There are ways to handle this if you put your focused indignation to work, rather than leaving homeless people to blow in the wind. This is all part of who we are - and we need to embrace rather than keep pushing away the unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

I was admiring Michael Reiss' decision to be visible. However, when I click on his name, the link goes to an organization called Common Good. What gives?

There is no Michael Reiss on the Staff or Board of that org. What is up and why the link to that org?

Sidenote: interesting that their Exec director pulls over $213k p.a. (their Form 990).

Big bucks, big egos and a LOT of self-righteousness and preaching in low income housing / homeless helping!

Anonymous said...

In response to Michael Reiss, my name is Jim Somoza and I am happy to tell you that I am the person that wrote the first comment. Your statement that we "should help and deliberate, rather than dancing around the issue" is a head-fake because you obviously know that The City and Housing Solutions USA is invoking a loophole that allows them to cram something like this down our throats without any community review. Your claim that we should appeal for changes is insulting because you know full well as part of the machine that is trying to impose this on us that we currently have no right to appeal it. I have researched the facilities run by you and only 2 of your 17 facilities are for transient individuals like the one being proposed for our neighborhood.

Michael Reiss said...

I don't work for Common Ground. I used to work for Baltic St. AEH at 250 Baltic St., which is part of South Beach Psychiatric. We don't work with Common Ground. I linked my name to Common Ground because they deal with homeless issues and I've heard they do a very good job.

Again, you continue to attack the messenger because you don't seem to have the resolve or the forthrightness to be part of a welcome and diplomatic solution. But this is something I expect from the territorial urban malaise of communities that never actually commune.

Communities can very easily be communal. But you really don't seem to want it.

Anonymous said...

Now that we have the Common Ground connection clarified, perhaps someone from their org would care to clarify their involvement with the issue of the Shelter on 9th Street?

While we are waiting, a few talking points from the Common Ground 2010 financials on their publicly available Form 990:

Staff Cost/Revenue received: 25%

Total Salaries (2010):
Roseanne Haggerty (founder) = $230,070

Timothy Marx (exec dir) = $230,293

Eduardo Ronquillo (Controller) = $150,634

Baltic Street AEH meanwhile shows that it paid out 65% of the revenues it received as staff compensation in 2011 (the average payout for 2008-2010 was over 62%). JP Morgan Chase paid out 30% in its latest 10-k filing for 2012, by way of comparison. There is no Michael Reiss on their Forms 990 going back to 2008, so if he exists he must have been a non-reported staff member.

There is a healthy Homeless Industry which might be well and good. However, it is interesting to put the data above in the context of the comments vilifying the "privileged" Carroll Gardeners. The same local people who would actually welcome a facility that realistically gave people a hand up
instead of just feeding those who sanctimoniously pig themselves out on the public largess flowing to the Homeless Industry.

Michael Reiss said...

Are you conducting an investigation? Or is it an inquisition? Ridiculous direction you're going in.

Just for the sake of your own paranoid mind, I'll put your suspicions at ease: I worked at Baltic St. AEH from November 2009 until September 2010. My supervisor was Anthony Sgarlata and the executive director is Isaac Brown. The head of human resources is Mr. Brown's assistant, Mariana Barbarash.

You're a sick person, Anonymous, for having to investigate such a thing, but you seem to be used to being paranoid, concerned with some sort of "community purity", and other slander and crap.

I thought there might be some people who gave a s**t about things other than property-value in this neighborhood, but it doesn't appear that too many sympathetic voices are out there. The shelter needs to be modified and reduced in number of residents, that's a no-brainer - but the original reaction was simply Carroll Gardeners bristling at the thought of homeless people amongst them. Purely elitist. Social engineering and control-freakish. And you'll probably get what you want.

I just signed a lease in Bay Ridge today. And your comments showing mistrust and animosity make me very glad that I'm moving away from the people who make comments like the previous one, the inquisition of "Anonymous". Sadly, there's this sort of thing in most neighborhoods, but I had hoped that Carroll Gardens, my home for the last decade, would be different. And it's not.

Becky said...

Michael Reiss, nobody said "community purity" but you.

Why are you linking your name to organizations you are not affiliated with, and which have no immediate association with this proposed shelter? If you want to bring attention their way as a good model to follow, why not instead mention them in the text of your comment? It seems designed to mislead.

Your accusatory comments are not helping further the dialogue. Please stop.

Marc Levine said...

Carroll Gardens has decided: "Let them eat cake".