A duplicitous deal?

Homeless housing contract questioned


His mission is to stop a transitional housing facility for the homeless from opening at 5731 Broadway, and with time running short, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has one more trick up his sleeve.

On Monday, Dinowitz asked city comptroller Scott Stringer to step in and review a contract that would allow the city’s homeless services department open the Kingsbridge facility, citing Stringer’s authority to reject the contract.

“Regardless of whether you support or oppose a transitional housing for the homeless at this site, I hope we would all agree that there must be honesty and transparency, and that the city should make the best possible deal, and not a huge windfall to a controversial developer,” Dinowitz said in a statement.

Not only did Community Board 8 get blindsided by the proposal less than 30 days before it was expected to open, the Assemblyman said, but its developer Stagg Group continued to maintain it planned to offer market-rate rents for the 83 units there.

Even more, Dinowitz said, Stagg would move in the homeless while moving itself to Easy Street, since the developer would pick up millions of dollars at taxpayers’ expense.

That also was part of the argument shared by former CB8 chair Daniel Padernacht last week during a contracts public hearing in Manhattan that brought out both supporters and protesters against the homeless facility. Padernacht pointed to a new tax abatement form Stagg filed just days before the hearing, claiming the value of the units started at $2,500 for a studio. 

That was a big difference from the original tax abatement form filed by Stagg in January, which valued its studio apartments at just over $1,300. The new numbers would increase the average rental value from $2,200 per unit to more than $3,500.

“Under a 421a (tax abatement plan), the developer must keep the units under rent stabilization for about 25 years,” Padernacht said. “This contract (with DHS) is only for five years.”

That would reset Stagg’s minimum rent for 5731 Broadway well above current market value, Padernacht added, virtually destabilizing rents in the program.

Stagg did not return calls for comment, however, the contract under public review in Manhattan last week would pay Stagg $2.4 million per year for rent, or a little more than $2,400 a month — closer to the rental value Stagg claimed in its initial tax abatement application.

As of Tuesday, the contract that would finalize the involvement of Praxis Housing Initiatives had yet to be finalized. And despite the rancor against the homeless facility, there are some in the community who want to see the contract signed like Lucy Mercado, who lives down Broadway in Marble Hill.

“Gentrification is happening, pushing families out that are not as privileged,” Mercado said during last week’s hearing in Manhattan. Many homeless families are people who simply ran into bad luck like a lost job or a separation from a spouse, she added.

One family who was very involved with a Kingsbridge school lost their home and were sheltered in Brooklyn. Because the mother didn’t want her child to lose his honor roll status, he continued to trek into the Bronx each day.

“It’s imperative that we help homeless families in our community and be compassionate toward them and their children,” Mercado said.

Current CB8 chair Rosemary Ginty didn’t attend the Manhattan meeting, nor did outspoken land use chair Charles Moerdler. However, both led CB8 members last month to blast the 5731 Broadway proposal by homeless services, and push instead for permanent housing.

Either way, 5731 Broadway developer Stagg Group has become quite unpopular with elected officials, especially with Councilman Andrew Cohen.

“Stagg is a known bad actor in the Bronx,” he said, citing similar issues the developer has had with neighboring community boards over last-minute proposals for homeless shelters. “Now the city is rewarding Stagg.

“You’re not engaging the community. I have engaged with DHS, but it was a waste of time. It was another example of where you were politely listening, but not hearing us.”