GOWANUS – Officials at a lightly attended Wednesday night meeting about the new homeless shelter at 399 3rd Avenue cited a city rule preventing them from discussing ongoing procurement negotiations in order to dismiss questions about the cost disparity between the 3rd Ave shelter, operated by Praxis Housing Initiatives, and the two shelters at 535 & 555 4th Ave run by WIN (Women In Need).
The non-answer was given by Matt Borden, the assistant commissioner for government affairs at the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), in response to a question by community activist Dan Price. Borden declined to comment when Bklyner asked him about the rule after the meeting. DHS did not provide a specific rule supporting the claim when asked.
The 3rd Ave shelter, which will house 58 adult families experiencing homelessness, has a much lower cost figure than those on 4th Ave. The per-unit price on 3rd Ave is about $5,100, which is about half the cost of the 4th Ave shelters, though speakers at the hearing noted that the shelters would be providing different types of services, for different populations.
The meeting took place at Park Slope’s MS 51 at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (September 4), and attendance was notably light in comparison to the meetings regarding the 4th Ave shelters. Some audience members questioned whether this was intentional, as the meeting time had been rescheduled from the previous day and the city is coming off of a holiday weekend.
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The meeting was set up by Brooklyn Community Board 6, and led by City Council Member Brad Lander, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, and officials from DHS and Praxis. The shelter is scheduled to open this fall at the site of what was originally developed to be the Hotel LYN.
Generally, attendees at the meeting praised Praxis for conducting a transparent and sensitive process. “It’s a big difference from Christine Quinn,” said meeting attendee, Dan Vito, in a question to the assembled panel referencing the raucous Community Board 7 meeting in July featuring Women in Need’s Quinn and members of the community engaged in less-than-cordial dialogue about the 4th Avenue facilities.
As a means of building a bridge, Praxis officials invited members of the community on tours of both the 3rd Ave site and of Praxis’s shelter on the Upper West Side, which provides similar services as would be provided at 3rd Ave.
“We are glad DHS and Praxis came out and started a dialogue with our community and expect that dialogue to continue,” said Michael Racioppo, District Manager for CB6, in a statement to Bklyner.
The siting of shelters in the Park Slope area has drawn a polarized reception in the neighborhood. Skeptics at the hearing noted that three shelters have now been sited in the area in quick succession, but officials said that the area was still not shouldering its fair share of the burden laid out in the de Blasio administration’s Turning the Tide report.
“We have a moral and a legal obligation to provide a safe place to sleep every night for every New Yorker that is homeless,” Council Member Lander said. He noted the heavy disparity in burden that low-income neighborhoods bear in siting shelters, and that Park Slope had still not met its fair share of the burden.