Proposals to open shelters for the homeless would have to go through a city review process including community input under a bill that will be introduced in the state Senate.
The bill, which will be introduced next session, calls for the New York City Planning Commission to work with the local community before plans for a new shelter location are finalized. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and has the support of state Sen. Joe Addabbo.
“Our efforts against the proposed homeless shelter in Glendale has been a long endeavor, and at times it seems we are fighting an impossible battle,” Addabbo said. “I want us all to have a fair opportunity to voice concerns when it comes to what is being put into their backyards and affecting our quality of life in both the long and short term.”
If passed, the new legislation will demand a homeless shelter’s operator to file notice with the NYC Planning Commission and the local community board before they go ahead and use a proposed spot. Once filed, the commission would host a community forum, followed by a 60- to 90-day review period.
Following the review period, the NYC Planning Commission will either approve, modify or deny the location, or suggest an alternative site. These requirements will also, by law, stand for an existing shelter whenever a lease with the property owner is renewed or extended.
Sal Crifasi, president of the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition, a group that is fighting the proposed Glendale homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue, said he was happy his local elected officials were finally taking action against the warehousing of homeless people, but he is not completely convinced the new law will be enacted.
“Finally there is some transparency between the government and the community,” said Crifasi. “But I have to see [the law] get passed first.”
Addabbo said he believes the community should always have the biggest voice when it comes to issues like this.
“These guidelines require, they enforce, community involvement. This should have been rule number one from the start, but it is my hope this legislation becomes law and we can correct the wrongs of the past and make decisions more efficiently going forward,” Addabbo said. “If city agencies can work with residents at the local level, we can restore trust that may have been lost this past year.”
If the bill is approved in the Republican-controlled state Senate, it would still need approval in the Democratic-controlled Assembly before going on to Gov. Cuomo for his signature.
The city is under enormous pressure to provide emergency shelter for a record number of homeless. This week, the city reported 59,246 people in shelters, about half of whom are children. In December 2000, the city sheltered 23,235 homeless per night.