African American Planning Commission Inc. is out at 6661 Broadway. In a surprise move, the city said it will no longer contract with the nonprofit shelter provider homeless services officials selected more than a year ago to operate the proposed shelter in North Riverdale.
Community Board 8 chair Laura Spalter confirmed she got the news in an email Dec. 1 from the city’s social services department, which oversees New York City’s vast shelter system.
“Good morning,” it began. “AAPCI is no longer the provider for 6661 Broadway. Once DHS (Department of Homeless Services) confirms a new provider, we will send an update with additional details. At this juncture, all other aspects regarding population, capacity, and timeline maintain the same (sic) and there are not further updates.”
Spalter read the dispatch to The Riverdale Press over the phone.
She said CB8 had invited agency officials to a meeting the board attempted to convene with representatives from AAPCI and the developer who bought the property, an LLC associated with Court Square Real Estate Partners. They filed permits in October to construct a new six-story homeless shelter at the address.
In June, storefronts at 6661 Broadway received notices they would need to vacate by Dec. 31. Ruby Dong, whose family owns the popular New King’s Wok Kitchen, said they are staying put for now.
“Our landlord hasn’t said anything,” she said. “Even though he gave us a notice, the only way we’ll know to leave is if he tells us we have to.”
None of the other storefronts are making moves to pack up either.
“Dec. 31 is around the corner,” Dong said. “We’re just trying to stay on the positive side, trying to be optimistic. I don’t know if there’s going to be any change.”
When the social services department presented on the proposed North Riverdale shelter at a CB8 meeting more than a year ago, they said AAPCI would ultimately be the owner of the shelter, which is one of 90 new shelters the city embarked on building from the ground up with former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 “Turning the Tide” plan.
Hundreds of Riverdale residents attended the CB8 meeting last fall to voice their disapproval of the site selection and dormitory-style shelter design. In July, the board’s officers, together with New York Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Eric Dinowitz, sent a letter to the city department of investigation calling for a probe into the city agency’s secretive dealings with AAPCI.
The city has pursued a corrective action plan with AAPCI following revelations about nepotism among the organization’s leaders in a New York Times investigation earlier this year. In July, social services spokesperson Neha Sharma updated The Press on AAPCI’s progress, saying that the nonprofit was complying with reforms, including firing their chief financial officer, submitting additional financial reviews, and restructuring their board.
“AAPCI has cooperated with us throughout this process, taking immediate steps to address the issues, and demonstrated commitment to working closely with us as they comply with our corrective action plan going forward,” Sharma said in a July 18 email.
The city procured the proposed contract for the North Riverdale shelter through an open request for proposals, “which means proposals are accepted on a rolling basis,” Sharma said.
With AAPCI out, it’s unclear how the agency will continue to pursue the shelter and still maintain the “rolling basis” of proposals.
City officials acknowledged they received The Press’s inquiries into the agency’s contract procurement process last week, but did not send a response with further information by press time.
The $211 million pending contract with AAPCI is still listed as “in progress” in the city’s public contract portal. The nonprofit provider has seven other contracts registered with homeless services and other city agencies, including a new shelter on Hoyt Street in Brooklyn. Social services administrator Joslyn Carter and deputy commissioner Erin Drinkwater presented on it to Brooklyn Community Board 2 in November 2021.
“This is all a big mystery,” said Spalter during the board’s executive committee meeting last week. “According to what Drinkwater said, there were no other nonprofits that applied, and the contract was uniquely based on AAPCI and the department of homeless services, between them. So yes, they just simply want to substitute one for the other.”
Land use chair Charles Moerdler argued against taking any immediate action.
“It would be wise to say nothing else,” Moerdler said. “You do not want to be characterized as being against homeless shelters period. The answer would be you don’t even know who’s doing it. You don’t know whether it’ll change. You’re premature. Leave it as is for the moment.”
Elected officials, including state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, are pushing for a meeting with city officials this week to discuss the status of the North Riverdale shelter contract and the agency’s protocol.
“I believe there needs to be a new mayor’s office of contract services hearing, that it needs to go back to the beginning,” Spalter said. “We need to have a new hearing. I don’t know what will shake out. I know the electeds are looking into it, but I will keep you informed.”
Abigail Nehring is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.