Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Many Questions Surround West 9th Street Building Slated To Become Homeless Shelter

As the community is getting ready to attend Wednesday's informational meeting regarding the proposed 170-bed homeless shelter at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens, more disturbing details about the ownership of the building slated to house the shelter are coming to light.

Capital New York reporter Andrew Rice has done an outstanding job investigating the many players behind Tunnel Condos LLC., the private corporation in whose name the building is held. Some of the 'owners' seem to have rather cushiony ties to Housing Solutions USA/Aguila Inc., the Bronx-based non-profit organization that is proposing the shelter.
Read his article here.

In addition, there seem to be a fair number of open questions regarding the building's Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued by NYC Department Of Buildings.
The 10-unit building was originally designed and self-certified by architect Robert Scarano, who subsequently was stripped of his self-certification privileges for violating zoning and building codes on projects in Brooklyn. Though the West 9th Street building was completed in 2002, a C. of O. was not issued until 2010.

Some of these issues concern the lot-line windows of the property. Unless the owners of 165 East 9th Street purchased the air rights of the neighboring buildings, these lot line windows are not legal sources of light and ventilation for habitable rooms.

According to NYC's Building Code, habitable rooms must have window area at least equal to 10% of their floor area. If any room in this building relies on lot line windows to meet the light and ventilation requirements, that room would not be legally habitable.

The original zoning for the site was R6 in a C2-C3 local service district. Even with the bonus Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for community facilities (doctors offices) on the basement cellar and mezzanine levels of the building, the maximum FAR for the building should have been 4.80. The existing FAR on record is 5.61. How then did a building that is so out of compliance get a Cof O?

The homeless shelter is being authorized by NYC Department of Homeless Services under an “emergency contract” rule. It seems evident that under the contract some basic building requirements, such as maximum occupancy, may be lifted.

However, one really has to wonder how NYC DoB could have legalized a building that obviously violated quite a few rules.

More disturbing is how this city has privatized social services and how homelessness has become so lucrative that it seems to have attracted some very shady players and may have compromised the Buildings Department.

I encourage everyone to attend the Community Meeting tomorrow, Wednesday October 24th, 6:30 PM at PS 58.  Hopefully, we will get some answers to these questions.


Anonymous said...

Residents pay way above market value to have "the right to safe, reasonable housing" in Carroll Gardens. Why are our rights being totally disregarded?

There are so many serious concerns bringing hundreds of homeless people to an already over-crowded kid-centric neighborhood. The risks are very real and dangerous.

Perhaps I would feel differently if we were "taking care of" Brooklyn homeless, or that the folks behind it were people we could potentially trust. It is beyond disturbing to be railroaded this way. Surely it must be illegal.

How is it possible that we do not have a real voice in this? The outrageous disrespect is completely unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone going to reiterate these facts over and over? Why hasn't the community board released an agenda? I hope that there are people that bring up these clear conflicts of interest at the meeting. Will there be an opportunity for an open forum?

Anonymous said...

I too am wondering what format this meeting will take. There seem to be valid concerns across a wide spectrum of issues.

Also, it just seems totally implausible to me that the city could be putting itself on the hook by doing business with people like this running any kind of enterprise in a building with well-documented major construction issues. From a purely selfish perspective, I can't believe they didn't squash this one from the outset?

Anonymous said...