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State Senate bill gives communities input on homeless shelters

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Communities will now have the chance to hear plans for proposed social service facility sites before they appear in their neighborhoods.

The Senate recently approved legislation co-sponsored by Senator Joseph Addabbo requiring a more transparent process when it comes to locating homeless shelters or other social service facilities in communities throughout the city.

“This legislation, while not avoiding or ignoring the crisis of homelessness, substance abuse or other serious social ills in our society, does provide a necessary means for community members to be fully involved from the get-go when homeless shelters or other social service facilities are planned for their neighborhoods,” Addabbo said.

“All too often, communities are finding that facilities are being virtually rammed down their throats, with no real thought given to whether the buildings are appropriate for the programs, whether the neighborhoods have adequate transit or other services, or whether the proposed operators have questionable track records that should be challenged,” he added.

Under the new legislation, social service providers would be required to notify community boards and the City Planning Commission (CPC) within 45 to 90 days of selecting a location for their facility. The CPC would then have to hold public hearings to gather local input on the proposed facilities.

Within 60 to 90 days of the public hearings, the CPC would have the final authority to approve, deny or modify the community-based programs.

Community boards may also request hearings be held within the same time frame if a provider is planning on renewing its lease. This allows for local input in cases where questions have been raised about the operation of the facility.

“The fact of the matter is that we need transparency, honesty and in-depth community conversations about these programs—before they happen, not after the fact,” Addaboo said.

The Senator pointed out the proposed homeless shelter planned for Cooper Avenue in Glendale as a prime example.

“This project appeared virtually out of thin air, with no opportunity for the community to raise legitimate concerns about the facility, the track record of the operators, or other very pertinent issues—which then fell on deaf ears when brought to the attention of city officials,” he added. “We can’t let this continue to happen. It’s not about trying to keep people in need out of our neighborhoods—it’s about bringing neighborhoods together, with all the information they require, to help determine the best outcomes for these same people in need.”

The bill is currently under consideration by the Assembly Committee on Cities.

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