Kingsbridge residents will welcome new neighbors sooner rather than later as the highly touted — and hotly contested — contract between developer Stagg Group, Praxis Housing Initiatives, and the city to open a transitional homeless facility at 5731 Broadway was finally signed last week.
There is still no word, though, on when exactly the 83 homeless families will move into the new building, originally intended for market-rate housing. But signs indicate that move-in day is fast approaching.
Some northwest Bronx residents posted on social media last week they saw Stagg employees moving furniture into the apartment building, which is made up of 53 one-bedroom, 12 two-bedroom and 18 studio apartments.
Although no one from Stagg was available for comment, Isaac McGinn of the city’s homeless services department told The Riverdale Press he was excited to get the ball rolling to bring in the displaced families — many of whom reportedly called Riverdale and Kingsbridge home before falling on tough times.
“We are ensuring the building is ready for occupancy and completing final reviews,” he said. “We look forward to opening this location as soon as possible to give homeless families from this community and the Bronx the opportunity to get back on their feet.”
But it might not be all smiles from some northwest Bronxites, as the opening of the transitional housing facility will likely come much to the chagrin of a number of its opponents, including local elected officials like Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen.
Both have frequently spoken out against the placement of a shelter in Kingsbridge, at least partly because Stagg’s initial proposal to Community Board 8 said 5731 Broadway would be a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, and because nearby schools already are overcrowded.
“We were the victims of a classic bait and switch,” Dinowitz said in July, when the plans for the building were first announced. “I am outraged at the city’s plan to convert a brand-new apartment building in Kingsbridge into a homeless shelter.”
CB8 as a group didn’t oppose having some sort of homeless services at the site. But some of the more prominent members, like land use chair Charles Moerdler felt the city would be better served with a permanent shelter rather than a transitional one.
Most of the families, though, would stay for at least a year typically, McGinn said, noting it was similar to any family moving in for a one-year lease.
The city’s move to place homeless families into new buildings and developments, instead of packing them into shelters or hotels like the Van Cortlandt Motel is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s larger plan for tackling the growing homelessness problem throughout New York. With the opening of 5731 Broadway, homeless department officials said Van Cortlandt Motel’s units would be vacated, removing one regular complaint from those in the neighborhood when it comes to homelessness.
Since de Blasio took office in 2014, the number of families staying in shelters has jumped from 12,880 monthly to 15,315 in August, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. That’s a more than 24 percent increase — and those figures have actually dropped from their peak of 15,899 last November.
The problem of homelessness has proven difficult to solve, especially since the mayor’s plan to open up new facilities has typically been met with resistance, like in Norwood where the owner of a popular carpet store, Sam’s Floor Covering, was reportedly in talks to build a homeless shelter above the decades old business.
But it seems, for now, the staunch opponents of 5731 Broadway will have to adjust to life with their new neighbors.