|Martin A. Prince
Community Boards represent you and a hope for a better community. Community Board #10 serves the communities of City Island, Co-op City, Country Club, Eastchester Bay, Edgewater Park, Ferry Point, Locust Point, Pelham Bay, Schuylerville, Silver Beach, Spencer Estates, Throggs Neck, Westchester Square and Zerega. Community Board #10 has seven standing committees focusing on economic development, health and human services, housing and zoning, municipal services, parks and recreation, planning and budget, and youth services. The District Office is located at 3165 East Tremont Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, telephone # 718-892-1161, fax # 718-863-6860, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The hours are Monday - Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. The Office is available to assist community residents either in person, phone, or by email. Request for Assistance form may be downloaded and sent to our office.
News from Bronx Community Board #10
Many of you now know that the former Whitestone-Capri Hotel has been operating as a homeless shelter for ninety-five families since last September. You also know that that this shelter was established under an emergency contract from the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), to the Acacia Network Housing Inc. to operate a full service family shelter at the site. Bronx Community Board #10 was quite vocal in its opposition to the shelter. However, our opposition was never based on any negative sentiments toward the homeless families living at the site. It was based on the fact that shelter is located in a fairly isolated spot, devoid of traditional community services, but it is also located opposite the Trump Golf Links, the only major economic development benefit that the City of New York ever provided to this Board, in the past thirty years. Our Board saw the presence of a homeless shelter in the immediate vicinity of the golf course as a negative factor, because we feel that its presence may detract from the anticipated economic development associated with the prestigious golf course project. We as Board, tried to engage the Department of Homeless Services to determine how we may include both the homeless shelter and the golf course into a situation that would benefit not only both institutions on a whole, but the community in general. Sadly, the DHS chose not to do this, and only reminded us of the importance of meeting the needs of the homeless.
To further the goal of melding the shelter into community life, we sought and created a Citizens Advisory Board, this is something that DHS regulations require Acacia, the provider to do, but they really exercise no authority over the provider to do that. Nor did DHS assist in the creation of a
Community Advisory Board with any technical or administrative guidance. It is safe to state that DHS has not been of any real assistance to this community, save for it agreeing to our request, to send a patrol of DHS Police to visit the site to make it more secure.
The DHS had recently announced that it intended to extend the contract to the Acacia Network Housing Inc. to operate on a long term basis. In order to do this the agency has to have the contract reviewed by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. On March 19, 2015, this office conducted a public hearing regarding this contract. Below you will find Bronx Community Board 10 Testimony at this public hearing:
STATEMENT FROM BRONX COMMUNITY BOARD #10
THE MAYOR’s OFFICE ON CONTRACT SERVICES
E-PIN 07110P0002076 – PROPOSED CONTRACT BETWEEN THE ACACIA NETWORK HOUSING INC.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF HOMELESS SERVICES
MARCH 19, 2015
Madam Director, my name is Martin Prince and I am Chairman of Bronx Community Board #10, the host community board for the New York City Department of Homeless Services’ Crystal’s Place, located at 555 Hutchinson River Parkway, currently operated under an emergency contract with a provider known as the Acacia Housing Network Inc. This is a shelter for ninety-five units, which is housed in a former, short stay establishment, known as the Whitestone-Capri Hotel.
Our Board and the communities that we represent oppose the placement of this shelter, and the manner in which Acacia Network Housing Inc. was chosen to serve as the Provider. I feel at this point that it is important to briefly examine how the shelter came to the Ferry Point community. On September 12, 2014, our Board was notified by HELP USA that this organization intended to respond to the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS’s) Open-Ended Request for Proposals for the Development and Operation of “Standalone” Transitional Residences for Homeless Adults and Families.
The DHS never engaged this Board, or its elected officials, in a dialogue about this event. There was no formal announcement from this agency, nor was there a public hearing, and no opportunity was afforded the residents of Bronx Community Board #10 to comment. In response to our inquiries, all we received were statements that New York City had a homelessness crisis of some 58,000 families that required shelter and how we had a moral obligation to accept them into our community. In attempting to obtain information, both my District Manager Mr. Kenneth Kearns and I paid an impromptu visit to the shelter site, only to find that staff from Acacia Network Housing Inc. was on site. These individuals were known to us and when we spoke informally, we learned that Acacia had been chosen as the Provider. On September 15, 2014, we received notice from Acacia Network Housing Inc. that they were the Provider. DHS never saw fit to inform our Community Board of these developments. We had to initiate contact with the agency. Apparently, it is the agency’s policy, to have the Provider entities conduct the public outreach to potential host communities. Our feeling, as a Board, is that the reliance on the Provider to conduct such services is wrong and belittles the positions of Community Boards and elected officials across the City. Provisions in the contracts between the City and any entity offering services that exclusively vests outreach activities in the Providers, should be stricken. We as a people have a right to speak directly with our government about the decisions that it makes, and we should not have to depend upon a contract organization on these matters.
Having failed at providing the required courtesy of notification, DHS chose Acacia Network Housing Inc. to operate Crystal’s Place, without the slightest concern for community input. The City’s own contract practices require a bidding period in which a number of bidders are selected and the most qualified bidder is chosen. In this case, to the best of our knowledge a no bid contract was let to Health USA, and the contract subsequently shifted to Acacia. This is a no bid $17,801,135.00 contract that spends $125.79 on each client per day. We would like to say a word about Acacia, we feel that it is a responsible organization that operates a myriad of social services in Bronx County. By and large, they perform a good job, but a recent Daily News article criticized the DHS and Providers, such as Acacia and others for their management scatter of site shelter housing. According press accounts families were housed in structurally unsound and vermin ridden structures. An even more recent Department of Investigation study revealed that many of the structures housing the homeless were woefully inadequate and overly expensive. In our Board’s opinion, DHS should overhaul its entire operation and take a greater role in accounting for its choices. To let a contract of this size without public review violates not only the City’s own contract rules, but defies common sense. Where is the accountability factor? This contract contains language that calls for the development of an Independent Living Plan or ILP for clients by the Provider. In our conversations with Acacia, they discussed the services that they rendered in a general way. There was never any talk of something as significant of as an ILP. An ILP is a mode of operation established by the Provider and entered into cooperatively with the client. It is supposed to be a road map for the client to follow, that will enable him/her to achieve independent living status in their own home. The Provider also, is to work with the client in establishing savings accounts, when possible, so that people could eventually move into their own homes. These are but a few examples of the guidance offered to clients by the contract. This information should be disseminated among the public, so that they can get a good understanding of the work done among the homeless clients. Yet in an apparent lack of transparency, DHS chose to hold all of these services under a cloak of secrecy.
On March 13, 2015, DHS issued to Mayor de Blasio’s Office its Fair Share Analysis, proposing to award a long term contract to the Acacia Network Housing Inc. In their analysis they cite a series of factors and a chronology that paints them in a very positive light. The Fair Share Analysis is nineteen pages in length, and I will only state that this self-serving document contains a number of inconsistencies, which require further study. However, time will only allow me to cite a glaring few:
Bronx Community Board #10 was promised by several previous City administrations that a professional golf course would be built on a landfill in the Ferry Point community. Supposed construction went on for decades, with no end in sight and finally, after thirty years, we have a professional linked golf course. This was, and is the City’s socially contracted economic development project for Bronx Community Board #10. This is the only economic development incentive that our Board has ever seen from the City’s central administration, and upon its completion, DHS opened a homeless shelter. They barely make reference to this in the Fair Share Analysis and when they do, they gloss it over. When I sought to discuss the shelter’s impact on the golf course, the site that represents the most positive economic potential for our community, I never received an answer, except for the agency produced mantra that we have a homelessness crisis and we have share in providing shelter. I can tell you that DHS never paid any attention to the host community’s needs in this regard, and my Board is angered and frustrated by DHS’s lack of concern.
The contract calls for the establishment of a community involvement vehicle, in the form of a Citizens Advisory Board or CAB. The Fair Share Analysis writes glowingly about how Acacia has provided for a Citizens Advisory Board or CAB. Like every provider, Acacia is required to create a CAB for its shelters by contract. The fact is that Bronx Community Board #10 conducted the outreach activities and suggested members for this CAB. Credit should not be given to either DHS or Acacia for this effort. In fact, it should be noted that DHS has offered no guidance in the formation or the administration of a CAB.
The Fair Share further alludes to the presence of public transportation for the shelter residents, two bus lines, the Q44 and Q50 pass by the shelter on their respective routes to Queens and return trips to the Bronx. The schedules for these buses that provide connection to the subway at Pelham Bay and West Farms are such that, they have slow turn- around times and are frequently late. Besides it is a twenty minute ride to the nearest subway station.
Barely discussed in the Fair Share document, is that DHS had placed two men, who were either married to, or were the father of children at the shelter, who were listed as Level 2 and 3 Sexual Offenders. Neither DHS nor Acacia, ever came to the community with this information. In fact, Acacia itself was unaware of their placement. Any DHS contract with a Provider should mandate that issues like this should be discussed with the Provider. This situation demonstrated the complete failure of DHS to have basic communication with its Provider and the CAB. Proper communication between the Provider, CAB and DHS is mandated by the contract. These individuals were removed, only after considerable pressure from the community. DHS pays lip service to developing a policy regarding these matters, but all they did was place these individuals in other family shelters, out of the Borough.
Our Board firmly believes that the contract between the Acacia Network Housing Inc. and DHS should include a provision that would authorize Acacia to accept any family who faces homelessness within Community Board #10, for priority placement at Crystal’s Place, as a general policy. This way, people can receive services in their own community with minimal disruption in their lives.
In summation, Bronx Community Board #10 opposes the establishment of a contract at Crystal’s Place, located at 555 Hutchinson River Parkway, because of the manner in which DHS operates, its lack of notification, its complete disregard for the host community’s concerns, inconsistencies of service between shelter to shelter, the opaque nature of contracts, and its high costs.
This testimony was presented to the Mayor’s Office for Contract Services by Mr. Kearns the District Manager of Bronx Community Board #10, and represents the Board’s position on this subject.
Bronx Community Board 10 would like remind everyone who eligible to take advantage of the earned income tax credit or (EITC), when completing your tax forms. This is a refundable tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and working couples, especially those with children. This benefit is available to those who made $51,567.00 or less in 2013. There are many rules associated with the EITC, so be careful to read the instructions that accompany your forms when applying. Generally speaking, the EITC will result in the savings of several thousand dollars per tax payer.
Every year, the New York State Comptroller holds accounts from insurance policies, stocks and bonds or other investment instruments that are unclaimed. These unclaimed funds are from relatives who have passed away or businesses that have changed hands and moved on. There are many recipients in Bronx Community Board #10, who are unaware that this money is available to them. If you believe that you have any money owed to you from the unclaimed funds accounts, please contact the New York State Comptroller’s office at OSC.STATE.NY.US, or come to an unclaimed funds event that will be held on Friday, March 27, 2015 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM at 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx NY, 10451 in the Rotunda.
New York City has pioneered the concept Municipal ID cards that are available to all New Yorkers, who lack sufficient ID. The IDNYC Program offers photo ID cards who are at least 14 years of age. This will allow people, who have no ID to sign a lease, open a bank account, and enter a job. All applicants must apply for the card in person at the enrollment center and you will need to bring identification with you which includes foreign passports, consular ID, foreign birth certificate, military ID, US high school diploma. Proof of residency in the City of New York is also required and that can take the form cable or utility bill, bank statement or rental receipt. You must schedule an appointment by accessing the website https://idNYC.appointment-plus.com or by calling 311.
Bronx property owners are invited to bring their property and building related concerns to the New York City Department of Buildings “Homeowners and Residents Night,” which is held in the in Bronx Borough Office at 1932 Arthur Avenue, every Tuesday, between the hours of 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM. No appointment is necessary, all you need do is come to office and you will be provided with one-on-one guidance from a New York City Building Department professional.
Senator Jeff Klein invites local residents to participate in the Court Watcher Program. The Court Watcher Program is a common-sense initiative to push our judicial system to take seriously the quality of life crimes committed against the community. Like-minded individuals, wearing Court Watcher T-Shirts, are encouraged to attend court hearings of repeat offenders, in specified cases where the District Attorney and local police feel that community support will make difference. If you are interested in the program, please contact Senator Klein’s office at 718-892-1161.
Many of us are fortunate to have four legged friends in our lives and they require walking. Please clean up after your friends, you will be doing both them and the community favor. Besides, it is $250.0 fine for not cleaning up.
Bronx Community Board #10’s office is open five days a week between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM to me your needs. Please feel free to contact us at 718-892-1161, or by e-mail at BX10@cb.nyc.gov. Please visit our website for announcements at www.nyc.gov/bronxcb10.