Officials and Community Groups Commend Borough President Diaz’s Actions on Homeless Shelter Plan
Today, on the steps of City Hall State Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell and a wide variety of community organizations and civic leaders joined together to commend and support Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on his decision to default on the vote of the Muller Army Reserve Center (MARC) LRA.
The LRA, which is made up of Borough President Diaz as well as two deputy mayors to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had put forth a proposal to use the MARC to house a 200-unit homeless shelter for single men, despite widespread opposition to the plan and a glut of new and existing homeless shelters in Community Board #12, a number of which are planned for the area immediately adjacent to the MARC.
Rather than a homeless shelter, Bronxites have for years asked that the National Guard units that currently occupy space outside of the Kingsbridge Armory be moved to the MARC, freeing up their current space for use as potential public schools. Since the MARC is already used by the military, transferring a different military unit would be an easy, inexpensive way to reuse the MARC. Instead, the Bloomberg administration has chosen to undergo a costly renovation of the MARC for use as a homeless shelter.
“We understand that we must help the least fortunate among us. With that said, Community Board #12 is already doing its fair share for the homeless. Adding another shelter to this community is wrong, especially when a viable alternative use for the MARC is on the table. It is shameful that this administration has ignored the collective voice of the Bronx and pushed forward with this homeless shelter plan,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
By defaulting on the vote, Borough President Diaz has returned the process of selecting a use for the site back to the Department of Defense, which currently controls the site.
“I am hopeful that the Department of Defense will see the wisdom in continuing to use this site for military purposes, and I look forward to working with them to make that plan a reality,” said Borough President Diaz.
Other elected officials and community leaders also showed their support for the decision of Borough President Diaz to default on the LRA vote.
“Over the past several years the Bronx and Community Board #12 in particular have faced an influx of social service agencies, facilities and programs. While appropriate housing must be provided for those in need, under current plans the North Bronx is being burdened with the bulk of this housing. This area is unfairly inundated and I strongly urge the city to take a more holistic approach to solving the problem of homelessness and to reconsider its strategy for addressing this problem in the Bronx,” said State Senator Jeff Klein.
"All of the local elected officials, Community Board #12, neighborhood organizations and residents stand united in opposition to this proposal, which is a bad plan that unfairly overburdens the Wakefield community," said Council Member G. Oliver Koppell. "I applaud Borough President Diaz for refusing to participate in a process which disregards the needs of the community and defies common sense."
"I strongly support Bronx Borough President Diaz's decision to default on the Local Redevelopment Authority vote on the Muller Army Reserve Center. The Borough President recognizes the major negative impact that a 200-bed homeless shelter at The Muller Center would have on the surrounding community. I can't imagine why we would want to attack the quality of life of the Wakefield and Woodlawn communities. These communities and Bronx Community Board #12 as a whole are doing more than their fair share to address the needs of the homeless and others in need. We cannot and must not allow this administration to use Community Board #12 and the north Bronx as a dumping ground. The Muller Center should be used for the National Guard unit that currently uses space at the Kingsbridge Armory, space that the Kingsbridge Heights community needs for schools. Building schools there and using The Muller Center for the National Guard would be a win-win. I stand with Borough President Diaz and the entire community in urging that the Muller Center be used for the National Guard and not another homeless shelter,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
“New York City is a city of neighborhoods, and the people of those neighborhoods should have a voice in determining what projects go into where they live. The united voice of the community has been that another homeless shelter within close proximity to other existing facilities is inappropriate and is detrimental to their quality of life. The borough president, myself, and all other local elected officials agree with them. We can’t all be wrong. The city cannot operate in a fashion that the public be damned. It is much more appropriate to have the National Guard unit moved to this facility, as it was built to house military in the first place,” said Rep. Eliot Engel.
"I applaud Borough President Diaz' wise and strong leadership in again refusing to permit the Local Redevelopment Authority which is dominated by Mayor Bloomberg's appointees, to denigrate the quality of life in neighborhoods across the North Bronx and to waste tens of millions of scarce city dollars, allegedly unavailable to provide much needed municipal services but readily available to squander, by turning the Sergeant Joseph Muller Army Reserve Center into a facility to warehouse 200 homeless men. The National Guard needs a new home in the Borough of The Bronx, the children of the Kingsbridge community need more schools, the people of Community Board #12 need to maintain the character of our neighborhood, and our homeless brothers need to be treated with decency and respect. Borough President Diaz' ideas in order to accomplish these essential objectives should be welcomed by the Bloomberg Administration for their vision, creativity, and common sense,” said Fr. Richard Gorman, chairman, Community Board #12.
“My child attended P.S. 79 and now attends P.S. 386 where the classes have been too large for even the best of teachers to do their job well. As we, the people of the Bronx see it, if everyone does their part, we can resolve this situation in a way that is a triple-win for everyone involved--our students, our homeless, our community residents, our National Guard. The Muller Army Reserve Center is ideal for the National Guard. The Kingsbridge Armory annex is ideal for badly needed schools in the Kingsbridge neighborhood. There is no good reason that we could not find a site that is far more suitable for homeless individuals. But when the Mayor turns a deaf ear to the voice of our Borough President, he shuts out our representative--the person we have elected to represent us as our voice. He has shut us, as the people of the Bronx out. He has made this personal. It's a personal slap in the face. And for what? My child, our children, will pay the price,” said Flor Cabrera, a Parent Leader of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition Education Committee and PTA member of P.S. 386.
“The campaign to construct four small schools at the Kingsbridge Armory has been fought before I was born in the Bronx. Now seventeen years later there still hasn’t been four small schools constructed in a district that is the third overcrowded in the entire city of New York. I know how dire the issue of overcrowding is because I attended P.S. 86, one of the schools in District 10 that is severely overcrowded. I could not attend the P.S. 86 campus my kindergarten year since it was severely overcrowded. As a result I was bused to another school due to P.S. 86 not having space for me to take part in my education. P.S. 86 is still overcrowded to this day, and we still do not have our school. I feel that we all need to take part in this project that can change the lives of thousands of families in the Bronx, especially for us the young people. The Department of Education has expressed its interest in building schools on 195th Street. Community Board #12 and Wakefield residents want the National Guard to move to their community. Elected officials are in support. Our barrier is still that our mayor has an entirely different agenda,” said Adolfo Abrue, youth leader of Sistas and Brothas United.
“Woodlawn supports Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz's decision to oppose the LRA and the Mayors plan to turn The Muller Army Reserve Center into a homeless facility. Putting 200 homeless in The Army Reverse Center would act negatively to the community stability. The Mayor’s action in this respect would be destructive. On top of the 200 scheduled for the Army Reserve Center Project, renewal will be constructing dormitory style homeless shelter. This is not only extremely poor planning it is a formula for community destruction. Again we applaud Ruben Diaz for his stand against using the Army Reserve Center for homeless. My proposal is that what the Bronx needs is a center to be used for the National Guard,” said Christine Sheridan of the Woodlawn Heights Taxpayer & Civic Association.
“We strongly support Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz’s snub of the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) to push the Mayor’s plan to turn the Muller Army Reserve Center (MARC) into a 200 bed facility for the homeless individuals. Both the LRA and Matrix, a consultant firm hired by the city to find the best use for the MARC, found that a “similar” (i.e. housing the National Guard) use would be the best and least costly use. The LRA has been duplicitous since its inception. It failed to have promised public hearing and reported a meeting for which there is no evidence of its having been held. We understand that the homeless must be sheltered, but adequate planning must be observed to ensure the project is fair. The Mayor knows this. Apparently he wishes to destroy both the Wakefield and Woodlawn communities which will be the most affected,” said Mary Lauro, President of the Wakefield Taxpayers & Civic League.
“There is something very wrong when two deputy mayors co-opt the BRAC process by shutting out the voices of our borough president and our Bronx residents, thumb their noses at the recommendations of our local elected officials and community stakeholders, while supporting the placement of our homeless in a an asbestos, lead contaminated and toxic facility. They condemn our National Guard to remain in inadequate space at the Kingsbridge Armory annex that prevents them from providing confidential counseling services to our returning troops who have done their patriotic duty overseas. And for our children, they are preventing the construction of small schools in the Kingsbridge neighborhood that could go a long way to relieving the rampant overcrowding that has overwhelmed our district. We just don't understand why the Mayor and his deputy mayors don't seem to see or hear what everyone is saying the Bronx needs,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, Board Member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.