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¡Basta Ya!

When Even One More Shelter Is Too Much

By Robert J. Rodríguez

Robert J. Rodríguez.

Robert J. Rodríguez.

The citywide housing crisis has produced some of the highest levels of homelessness since the Great Depression, and only a limited number of communities are carrying the brunt of the responsibility to house the homeless for the entire city.

While it’s imperative to address homelessness and work to house the homeless, there has been a reoccurring trend in low income minority communities across the city. We have been overburdened by facilities serving our most needy populations while other communities, ones with more resources, don’t take on their fair share.

In East Harlem, there are 16 homeless shelters, over 1,700 beds and 13 rehabilitation clinics. The Upper East Side has just 80 beds and places like Forest Hills and much of Staten Island have none.

An additional 200 shelter beds are slated for the Meyer Building on Ward’s Island. These extra beds would stretch our already thin resources to a breaking point in a community where 32.7 percent of residents and families are living in poverty.

The Meyer Shelter’s proximity to the 125th Street and Lexington Avenue corridor is a major public safety concern. Every day, the M35, the only bus that services the Island, transports shelter residents to its last stop on 125th Street near the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines. Concentrated here are eight substance abuse rehabilitation facilities which have caused serious quality-of-life issues in the corridor. Despite city efforts to enhance policing and sanitation, the corridor remains a haven for loitering and illicit behavior.

The city’s “Fair Share Analysis” process creates disparity in shelter distribution, as it considers shelter sites based on their compatibility to existing facilities within the vicinity of the proposed site. Therefore, majority-minority, high poverty neighborhoods like East Harlem, Highbridge, and Brownsville that already have high concentrations of homeless shelters and service providers are, to the city, ideal areas to add new sites.

“These extra beds would stretch our already thin resources,” writes Rodríguez.

“These extra beds would stretch our already thin
resources,” writes Rodríguez.

Our communities are already taking on an unequal responsibility of caring for the homeless.

Further, the city asserts that based on borough there is a fair distribution of shelters citywide, yet ignores the distribution of shelters based on Community Districts. The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) bases their analysis on community need while not providing data on the number of community district residents they’re serving in their facilities.

Over-concentration of shelters does a huge disservice to those experiencing homelessness that we are obligated to help. By consolidating homeless shelters in low income areas, we confine those who need the most assistance to areas of the least opportunity and resources. This separation adds yet one more barrier to jobs and permanent housing.

We’re simply asking that these much needed beds are built in neighborhoods that have greater capacity to support New York’s most vulnerable.

 

Robert J. Rodríguez is a member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 68th Assembly District of Central and East Harlem. For more information, please visit bit.ly/2RB7vgK or call the District Office at 212.828.3953.

 

¡Basta Ya!

Cuando incluso un refugio más es demasiado

Por Robert J. Rodríguez

La crisis de la vivienda en toda la ciudad ha producido algunos de los niveles más altos de personas sin hogar desde la Gran Depresión, y solo un número limitado de comunidades son las más afectadas por la responsabilidad de albergar a las personas sin hogar en toda la ciudad.

Si bien es imperativo abordar la falta de vivienda y trabajar para alojar a las personas sin hogar, ha habido una tendencia recurrente en las comunidades minoritarias de bajos ingresos en toda la ciudad. Hemos estado sobrecargados por las instalaciones que atienden a las poblaciones más necesitadas, mientras que otras comunidades, con más recursos, no aceptan su parte justa.

En East Harlem, hay 16 refugios para personas sin hogar, más de 1,700 camas y 13 clínicas de rehabilitación. El Upper East Side tiene solo 80 camas y lugares como Forest Hills y gran parte de Staten Island no tienen ninguna.

Se han programado 200 camas de refugio adicionales para el edificio Meyer en Ward´s Island. Estas camas adicionales estirarían nuestros ya escasos recursos a un punto de ruptura en una comunidad donde el 32.7 por ciento de los residentes y las familias viven en la pobreza.

Robert J. Rodríguez.

Robert J. Rodríguez.

La proximidad del refugio Meyer al corredor de la calle 125 y la avenida Lexington es una de las principales preocupaciones de seguridad pública. Todos los días, el M35, el único autobús que da servicio a la isla, transporta a los residentes de los refugios a su última parada en la calle 125, cerca de las líneas de metro 4, 5 y 6. Aquí se concentran ocho instalaciones de rehabilitación por abuso de sustancias que han causado serios problemas de calidad de vida en el corredor. A pesar de los esfuerzos de la ciudad para mejorar la vigilancia policial y la limpieza y recolección de basura, el corredor sigue siendo un refugio para el merodeo y el comportamiento ilícito.

El proceso de “análisis de participación justa” de la ciudad crea disparidad en la distribución de refugios, ya que considera los sitios de refugio en función de su compatibilidad con las instalaciones existentes en las proximidades del sitio propuesto. Por lo tanto, la mayoría de las minorías y los barrios de alta pobreza como East Harlem, Highbridge y Brownsville -que ya tienen altas concentraciones de refugios para personas sin hogar y proveedores de servicios- son, en la ciudad, áreas ideales para agregar nuevos sitios.

Nuestras comunidades ya están asumiendo una responsabilidad desigual de cuidar a las personas sin hogar.

Además, la ciudad afirma que, según el condado, existe una distribución equitativa de refugios en toda la ciudad, pero se ignora la distribución de refugios con base en distritos comunitarios. El Departamento de Servicios para Personas sin Hogar (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés) basa su análisis en las necesidades de la comunidad y no proporciona información sobre el número de residentes del distrito comunitario que atiende en sus instalaciones.

"Estas camas extra estirarían nuestros ya escasos recursos", escribe Rodríguez.

“Estas camas extra estirarían nuestros ya
escasos recursos”, escribe Rodríguez.

La excesiva concentración de refugios hace un gran daño a las personas sin hogar a las que estamos obligados a ayudar. Al consolidar los refugios para personas sin hogar en áreas de bajos ingresos, limitamos a quienes necesitan la mayor asistencia a las áreas con menos oportunidades y recursos. Esta separación añade una barrera más para los empleos y la vivienda permanente.

Simplemente estamos pidiendo que estas camas tan necesarias se construyan en vecindarios que tienen mayor capacidad para apoyar a los más vulnerables de Nueva York.

 

Robert J. Rodríguez es miembro de la Asamblea del Estado de Nueva York, representando al Distrito 68 de la Asamblea de Central Harlem y también East Harlem. Para obtener más información, por favor visite bit.ly/2RB7vgK o llame a la oficina distrital al 212.828.3953.

 

Fairness is a good principle for building a city – but not a simple one to achieve.

We all expect our fair share of basic needs and public goods. New Yorkers in every community should
have roughly equal access to schools, parks, and libraries. We would not deny any neighborhood a
police station, a firehouse, or an elementary school because the real estate was too expensive.

By the same token, we should all expect to do our fair share to solve problems and address the
challenges of sharing a city. “Fair Share” does not just mean keeping things out of neighborhoods
where they are already over-concentrated. It also means putting them in where they are
under-represented.

No one likes the smell or the traffic that comes with a waste transfer station. But every
neighborhood produces garbage, so it should be fairly managed, rather than over-concentrated in a
small number of neighborhoods (especially when those neighborhoods are disproportionately low-income communities of  color).

In practice, we can’t always achieve perfect fairness. Central Park is closer to some neighborhoods
than others. There are some facilities – like a wastewater treatment plant, or a museum – that
cannot practically be distributed equally to every neighborhood. A marine transfer station has to
be located on the waterfront.

And it is not always clear what the unit of fairness is – a neighborhood, a community board, a
borough?

Still, fairness is a critical first-order principle for distributing public facilities within a
democracy. That’s why the 1989 New York City Charter Revision Commission developed NYC’s “Fair
Share” rules, and established a process for considering fairness in siting municipal facilities through land use actions, leases, or contracts.

Unfortunately, NYC’s “Fair Share” rules aren’t working as they were intended.

• Low-income communities and communities of color still see far more than their Fair Share of
local unwanted land uses (“LULUs”).

• Data on the location and concentration of existing facilities is too difficult to access. As a
result, there is no way to tell a genuine Fair Share claim from a simple effort to justify NIMBYism
(“Not in My Back Yard”).

• Too often, community residents – and even community boards, who have an official role in the
process – are not aware of public siting actions that require a Fair Share analysis. Many Fair
Share Statements are never made public.

• The use of emergency procurement processes to site certain contracted facilities has meant
that many siting decisions that were intended to go through the Fair Share process have been
exempted from it completely, even in districts with the highest concentrations.

• There is no consequence for City agencies for implementing unfair sitings. It does not take
any more work, or require any additional findings. No extra mitigation is required. So unfair
sitings often remain the path of least resistance, because the land is less expensive, or the
community is perceived to be less powerful.

The New York City Council is committed to strengthening the Fair Share process, to achieve the
goals of the 1989 Charter Revision Commission, and to establish more fairness in our city. This
report lays out a set of fair, practical, concrete steps that New York City should take.

With these recommendations, New Yorkers in every neighborhood can count on more fairness – so we
can all be more likely to do our Fair Share, and to get our Fair to get our Fair Share, too.

For the full report, please visit click on REPORT