Take time to hear what community has to say


(re: “End secrecy around shelter,” Nov. 11)

The Riverdale Press has gotten it exactly right: “We could (justly) pair our support of the homeless with a vote of no confidence for the proposed shelter” at 6661 Broadway.

That is why the very first resolution adopted by Community Board 8 was the unequivocal recognition of our “obligation … to provide and facilitate the provision of shelter, services, and care for the needy.”

The second was a call for transparency that was absent in the city’s surprise diktat that we shall have 130 homeless men — eight to a room — just a few blocks from hundreds of other units of varying forms of supportive or assisted shelter. It is worth noting that the proposed site is more than a mile away from meaningful public transportation (the 1 train) that would enable these men to pursue employment, health care and the like, and return before the stroke of 10 p.m., lest they lose their bed.

Which also begs the question: Where would these late-comers go for the night?

Among the numerous other deficiencies that have surfaced in the lack of transparency and basic information from the city’s homeless services department pronouncement is the purposeful absence of careful planning and inquiry of the affected residents as to whether they had legitimate concerns, and what they were.

Next came the obligation to enable the community to act on them by asking DHS precise questions designed to obtain answers that seem to be intentionally withheld, and which some elected officials seemingly lacked the wit or will to ask.

Unlike DHS, our community board conducted several open community-wide meetings, inviting widely attended discussions where many, many community and facility resident concerns were raised. Those resident concerns included, for example, what assurances are there that medical, transportation, rehabilitation, employment and other services will, in fact, be provided?

Why must eight homeless men be forced — like sardines — into a tiny room without concern for dignity, safety or sanitation?

What compensation or other measures of redress will be provided to those largely minority shop operators whose life savings and efforts will now be erased in an instant, perhaps rendering them and their families homeless? What steps have been taken to ensure the safety of adjacent homes, their infrastructure and sanitary facilities such as sewage when there is every reason to believe they will suffer in this construction?

What protocols exist representing the planning for, and location of, such facilities, and what real community input is assured? And what effective monitoring and support mechanisms will not just be announced, but guaranteed?

Unlike the community-aware provisions of the paradigm Padavan Law, this fatally flawed DHS idea simplistically and silently ignores its broad and long-term implications in pursuit of a single goal — admirable in its objective, but fundamentally flawed in its lack of planning, outreach and execution.

Without hearing out residents of the affected area — without attempting to seek answers that were desperately sought by good people — and without any meaningful prior consultation or even contact with the community or its on-the-ground representatives of the community board, Congressman Jamaal Bowman and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi waited barely a minute to unquestioningly and unequivocally endorse the DHS diktat, and to attack those constituents who simply wanted answers by baselessly insinuating they are biased and lack concern.

For shame!

That is not “progressive.” That is uncaring indifference and arrogance. Acton put it well: “power corrupts.”

Responsible and caring representation demands — as has the community board and the insightful Riverdale Press editorial — answers to legitimate constituent questions before leaping to an unthinking and perhaps flawed conclusion. Armed with those demands, Councilman Eric Dinowitz was empowered to persuade DHS to publicly address those and other community questions and concerns. He has earned our thanks.

Hopefully, the resounding criticism of constituents and The Riverdale Press’ clarion call to thoughtful and careful inquiry and consideration will occasion productive second thoughts by those electeds who appear to have ignored our community.

Thoughtful public servants — those committed to real progress and fundamental social reform — have the ability and will to reflect and reconsider.

Let’s hope that this was just an initial misunderstanding, and not a failed litmus test.

The author is chair of Community Board 8’s land use committee

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Charles Moerdler,