A Bronx-based nonprofit, Not on My Watch, is expected to open a homeless facility in the Blue Moon Hotel, 100 Orchard St., in the next several days. This after the group made its first appearance before Community Board 3 Thursday evening.
As previously reported, Not on My Watch is partnering with the NYC Department of Homeless Services to house “stabilization beds” in the vacant hotel. The virtual meeting was for informational purposes only. According to city officials, they have the authority to open an emergency facility without approval from the community board or City Council. At a later date, the city will seek to create a “safe haven” facility at 100 Orchard. That would involve a community board vote, an environmental review and City Council approval.
In a virtual meeting of CB3’s human services committee, Not on My Watch’s CEO, Dr. Que English, provided a few details regarding her organization’s experience as a homeless services provider and explained how the facility will be set up. At a previous meeting (English was a no-show at that session), an official with the Department of Homeless Services acknowledged that the nonprofit lacked experience in running a safe haven. English told community board members that, in her presentation, she hoped to, “dispel a few uninformed assumptions.”
She said Not on My Watch, “brings over 20-plus years of experience working with the New York City homeless population and shelters” and has, “developed programs and provided services to homeless individuals, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.” English said her group has overseen operations for 3 NYC shelter contracts with more than 600 beds. English also said NOMW has developed and managed 300 units of affordable housing and 175 units of supportive/transitional housing. She did not specify where these shelters or affordable projects are located, or provide any details about their operations or track records.
At one point, city officials indicated that the 22-room hotel could accommodate up to 70 homeless adults. On Thursday evening, that number came down to a maximum of 46. Both English and city officials said there would be a “very slow ramp up” to that number to ensure the safety of all residents during the pandemic.
Throughout the meeting, there were many questions from community members concerned about security, potential conflicts in the nightlife-saturated area and the limitations of the converted tenement (as currently configured there’s only a very limited community space). English said a security firm would be on duty 24 hours per day, and she has been in contact with the 7th Precinct to begin building a relationship. She also said a director had been hired for the facility, someone who lives in the neighborhood, but she declined to name the director publicly until the building opens.
The meeting was advertised as an opportunity to talk about the safe haven, but city officials said they were only prepared to discuss the stabilization beds. They declined to say when they would return to the community board for a conversation about the permanent facility. Safe havens are tailored for long-term homeless individuals who won’t go to a traditional shelter. The city describes them as, “a low- threshold more private system with (fewer) rules and regulations” than shelters. Stabilization beds are meant for people who may have recently become homeless and do not require, at least in the short term, extensive supportive services.
A group of property owners and business owners has filed a lawsuit to block the facility. You can watch the full hearing below.
UPDATE: Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Frank Nervo dismissed the lawsuit, saying the group attempting to block the homeless facility lacked legal standing and failed to show how they would be negatively impacted.
In response, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Homeless Services told The New York Post, “As hoped and as expected, the court has affirmed our need to provide vital services and supports to our unsheltered neighbors, especially during this emergency period, and we look forward to welcoming New Yorkers in need to this high-quality site, where we’ll build on our progress helping nearly 4,000 unsheltered individuals come off the streets and get back on their feet.”
A lawyer for the locals who filed the lawsuit promised an appeal, saying, “The petitioners are disappointed with (the) decision, and it is unfortunate that they did not even have an opportunity to argue their position before the court.’