An Informal Discussion Of The Current State Of Affairs
The Hon. Joan Madden, Justice of the Supreme Court, New York County heard oral arguments on our case this past Monday, February 7, 2011. We await her ruling. Meanwhile, we wanted to present an informal overview of our situation.
The first thing to understand is that our case is strong. Our positions can be argued successfully from many angles and are supported by case law and statutory authority. Putting aside the political dynamic and emotions associated with homelessness, any reasonable and unbiased observer would consider our case a slam-dunk. This does not mean, however, that we will prevail. We must raise money to fund our legal case - your support now will make the difference in whether or not this strong case can move forward.
Consider the following undisputed points:
- The Bowery Residents' Committee ("BRC") submitted different sets of architectural plans to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services ("OASAS") and the NYC Department of Buildings ("DOB"). To OASAS, BRC submitted plans with areas designated as "examination rooms" and "nurses' stations." To DOB, these same areas were called "offices" and "corridors." (The relevant zoning laws do not permit the operation of medical treatment facilities at the site of the proposed facility.)
- The site is slated to have 328 beds, despite laws on the books that limit any shelter's census to 200. In public statements, BRC boasts about the "vertically integrated campus" to come, while in court documents BRC claims that these are actually separate and distinct 200, 96 and 32 bed programs. They just happen to be in the same building, and share virtually all the same facilities and personnel.
- A multi-million dollar lease was signed by BRC and the construction project began before any contract was signed between BRC and the City of New York. On this point, it's also worth noting that BRC receives 80% of its funding from government sources.
Why would BRC engage in such reckless behavior? Because BRC has the full backing of the City - and both BRC and the City were hoping that our community could not mount a meaningful challenge to their flagrant violations of relevant laws. So far, we've proven them wrong.
It is clear BRC and the City know they are on shaky legal ground. In response to the violations we've highlighted, they rely first and foremost on the fact that homeless services are sorely needed. Put another way, BRC and the City claim that the need for homeless services permits and forgives any illegal action. That's simply not how it works.
They also rely on the sensitive nature of any discussion of neighborhood homeless services. It is very easy to demonize anyone who. for any reason, challenges such services. By characterizing any objection as NIMBY obstructionism, BRC and the City hope to distract from their abuses.
Where does this leave us?
For the last nine months, the CFC has steadily built the case to protect the rights of the neighborhood. With some of the best and most experienced legal expertise available, we have produced thousands of pages of pertinent research and Freedom of Information Law documents. It has been an expensive but necessary process. We believe the other side was completely surprised that we successfully mounted a challenge thus far. It was so serious that the landlord for 127 West 25th Street attempted to bring his own 11th hour legal proceeding against BRC to stay any further obligation to BRC, and it is our understanding that the landlord has refused to continue funding the construction pending the resolution of our dispute. As it stands, BRC is funding the current and ongoing construction.
But we are far from finished. BRC and the City still expect that either (a) they can delay the process long enough for the shelter to begin operations, and/or (b) we will run out of money.
Thousands of home and business owners have contacted the CFC to express deep concern about the plans for 25th Street. To date, a relatively small percentage has shouldered the large financial burden of mounting a meaningful challenge. It is unrealistic to expect these same individuals to see the process all the way through.
We are asking that residents contribute at least $750 per bedroom and that commercial property owners contribute at least $1 per square foot. We know this is not a trivial amount of money. It is also grotesquely unfair that we should have to pay anything to do the job the City is paid to do for us through our taxes. But that is where we are.
If you have not yet contributed, or if you have contributed less than the suggested amount, we ask that you contribute now. While this is undeniably a lot to ask during such difficult times, the economic and community changing consequences are far more severe if the 25th Street plans for a 328 bed psychiatric treatment, homeless shelter and substance abuse detoxification facility go through.
We can prevail in this case. The only thing that will stand in our way is funding.