By Sarina Trangle
Several of Glendale’s elected officials plan to discuss a proposed homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue with the city, and one state assemblyman has made it clear he wants a review of the recently conducted audit of the proposed operator at the top of the agenda.
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and city Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor March 3 requesting that the city suspend its review of Samaritan Village’s bid to open a 125-family shelter, at 78-16 Cooper Ave.
He said the city should table the matter until the Briarwood-based human and health services organization can account for the findings in a state audit released in late February.
“These findings from the state’s top financial office deserve consideration from your administration when determining whether the city of New York should enter into a new extended contract with an organization that is currently being cited for potential operational deficiencies,” Hevesi wrote. “It is my hope that you will continue this trend of reform by ensuring the integrity of all organizations that contract with the Department of Homeless Services.”
DHS began negotiations with Samaritan Village this winter, planning to treat its bid as a formal proposal if the organization agreed to operate the facility for $27.5 million over a five-year period. To date officials have not reached an agreement on the operating cost.
Samaritan Village did not return a call for comment.
Glendale residents have railed against the idea of transforming a vacant sewing mill and airplane part manufacturing factory into a shelter. Neighbors and elected officials have argued city money would go further if invested in a residential building closer to subway lines, service providers and jobs. The Cooper Avenue building is about 1.3 miles from the M train.
DHS said it invited several elected officials, including City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Hevesi, to discuss the proposal in person.
Lisa Black, DHS’s assistant commissioner for government and community relations, said the commissioner hopes to sit down with the officials before the end of the month.
Assemblyman Michael Miller’s (D-Woodhaven) office said he had reached out to DHS and intends to join the meeting as well.
Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said the invitation had not been extended to the board.
Hevesi’s letter highlights an audit of the state’s five-year, $73.3 million contract with Samaritan Village to operate methadone treatment services in the metro area.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s probe found that the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services paid Samaritan Village nearly $1 million to cover inappropriate and questionable expenses from July 2009 to June 2010.
The audit, released in late February, determined that Samaritan Village billed the state $406,096 for money it distributed to clients for day trips and transportation. DiNapoli noted that most Samaritan Village clients already receive a personal needs allowance.
The nonprofit also gave more than 200 employees bonuses totaling $220,000, saying such checks would motivate and retain quality employees. But the audit questioned this strategy because those bonuses were not given out based on merit.
The audit found that Samaritan Village charged $63,519 for legal services unrelated to its contract, $57,000 for construction costs stemming from damage caused by one of its contractors and $35,158 for unapproved high-end office equipment.
DiNapoli also raised concerns about Samaritan Village entering contracts without going through a competitive bidding process.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.