EDITOR’S NOTE: The following submission is excerpted from a longer letter sent to former mayor Bill de Blasio, Mayor Eric Adams and city homeless services commissioner Steven Banks.
To the editor:
The Riverdale Main Streets Alliance and the South Broadway Business Improvement District of Yonkers are opposed to the city’s decision to fund the proposed homeless shelter at 6661 Broadway, to be developed by the African American Planning Commission for 130 single males.
We understand and respect the city’s legal obligations to provide homeless housing, as well as the homeless and affordability crises in New York City. This site and shelter, however, are at clear odds with the law, sound policy, and the needs of the involved parties.
Our organizations, institutions and businesses collectively represent thousands of New Yorkers and hundreds of businesses. We raise and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on public improvements. Please do not disregard our voices.
We ask the city to withdraw funding and consider other plans for using this site to meet the affordability crisis. The proposed shelter violates the city charter’s “fair share” requirement, which requires the city to adopt and follow rules to “further the fair distribution among communities of the burdens and benefits associated with city facilities.”
Even a cursory evaluation of Broadway and nearby residential streets in the 10471 ZIP code shows the proliferation of supportive housing — The W Residence for homeless, mentally disabled persons. A half dozen group homes. The “self-help” home for hundreds of formerly homeless or low-income senior citizens. Nursing homes for low-income seniors and the disabled. Homeless shelters blocks north in Yonkers.
In these densities, supportive housing of various kinds has a significant adverse impact on this residential zoning district. Staff members and service providers come and go, adding constant traffic and noise. Conversely, residents of these facilities by and large do not walk the streets, patronize stores, or utilize Van Cortlandt Park — depriving them of vitality and activity they desperately need.
The few residents of these supportive housing facilities that do leave are people and individuals in clear need of assistance — changing the character of the streets from residential to institutional. We do not stand in judgment of the people that desperately need these services, but is it the city’s intention to turn Broadway and nearby residential streets into one large supportive housing district?
State law governing supportive housing and New York City’s fair share criteria recognize these realities and discourage or prohibit the concentration of such facilities. Nor does it satisfy the law to state that this is the first such “homeless shelter” on the street — clearly common sense and the law requires a nuanced look at these types of uses in general.
The selection of this site appears to be arbitrary, capricious and irrational. The city and private operators cannot simply look for cheap sites to build such facilities. They need to consider local need, community character, local zoning, proximity to public transportation, and proximity to services.
Stranding 130 formerly homeless a mile from the subway, a mile from the nearest pharmacy or convenience store, miles from the nearest medical office, and miles from potential jobs is a recipe for failure and disaster. The decision also calls into question the judgement of AAPCI and its commitment to the men it intends to send to this far corner of the Bronx.
The selection of this site for homeless single men is a complete waste of the value of this location and community. The site is across from a section of Van Cortlandt Park the city is trying to revive in coordination with the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, South Broadway BID, and others — perfect for families and children who need public open space.
In fact, an important baseball field and sports/recreational center are across the street. It would be perfect for affordable or mixed-use housing for families. Conversely, this facility will discourage families and children from reconnecting with this part of the park.
We all look forward to working with the next city mayor, the city of Yonkers, AAPCI and other stakeholders to develop a plan for this site that meets the requirements of law, good planning, and that advances community interests. Please do not alienate our communities’ economically and ethnically diverse population of more than 50,000 people in the Bronx and Yonkers that are trying so hard to advance their community.
Damian McShane represents the Riverdale Main Streets Alliance, while Jessica Gordon is executive director of the South Broadway Business Improvement District