Photo Courtesy of RWDSU
State Sen. Jeff Klein has previously introduced similar legislation to require community notification of shelter placement that has passed in the State Senate.
By Michael V. Cusenza
State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx, Westchester) last week introduced legislation to require greater transparency of the placement of permanent and temporary homeless shelters.
Under the new proposal, communities would have a greater amount of input on the placement of shelters within their communities than by those announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last Tuesday when Hizzoner unveiled his administration’s 114-page plan “Turning the Tide on Homelessness, Neighborhood by Neighborhood.” Rather than community notification 30 days prior to the opening of a permanent shelter, the Senate bill gives communities notice 45 days before the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services hearings. The legislation would also empower community boards to request public hearings on a shelter. The City Department of Homeless Services would be required to modify its proposal based on reasonable concerns from such hearings, Klein noted.
For temporary shelters, the Senate proposal requires notification one week from the City’s use of the hotel as a shelter and requires DHS perform inspections to ensure sites are safe and free of violations. The City must also maintain a publicly available list of these sites, according to the legislation. The proposal also requires a quarterly report from DHS on the use and proposed use of these sites to be submitted to local elected officials. Because many times hotels are used for weather-related emergencies, the legislation allows for 48 hour post placement notification in the event of an emergency situation.
“While the announcement by Mayor de Blasio to phase out cluster sites and hotels from use in the shelter system, which are often dangerous and unsanitary, is a step in the right direction, the City still fails to fully address concerns coming from communities,” Klein added. “This plan includes no advance notification to officials or community boards when hotels and motels are planning to be used, and only 30 days prior to the opening of a permanent shelter for a hearing. Residents want a bigger role in this process and deserve to be heard because they know their communities best.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) on Friday announced his support for the new Senate legislation.
“While the Mayor’s announcement lacked details as to the short and long term plan for resolving the homeless crisis, one element is clear – the input and notification to the community and elected officials is crucial,” Addabbo said. “Unlike the Mayor’s proposal, the new bill I am co-sponsoring will require advance notification to local officials and community boards when hotels and motels are being eyed for use as homeless shelters. In addition, the legislation would expand the review and community input process for permanent shelters housing homeless individuals and families.”
Klein also noted that he has previously introduced similar legislation to require community notification of shelter placement that has passed in the Senate.
“Mayor de Blasio has continuously failed to provide communities in New York City with adequate information on the placement of homeless shelters,” said State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a candidate for mayor. “Residents need to know what is going on in their neighborhoods and have a say in the process when they have concerns. This legislation adds accountability to the process and ensures that when any shelter is planned the community members are made aware and it is safe for families staying there.”