Shelter Outrage Derails Meeting

Homeless Shelter Near Schools Angers Residents

By David Greene

BRONX- A public meeting on a planed men’s shelter in the Parkchester community sparked a marathon of shouting, finger-pointing and even some pushing and shoving– as residents feel they were sold out by officials and are concerned over many aspects of the 165-bed facility planned by Samaritan Daytop Village.

The meeting, held at St. Helena’s Church sparked a battle to control the debate. Key members in the debate, not at the meeting were: Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr., members of Community Board # 9, shelter operator Samaritan Daytop Village. The proposed shelter, is part of Mayor de Blasio’s ‘Turning the Tide’ initiative to close hundreds of “cluster sites” around the city.

A free-for-all shouting match and finger-pointing session was on the agenda as tempers flared over a planned homeless shelter for men in Parkchester.- Photos by David Greene

Senator Luis Sepulveda began the meeting, telling the crowd, “You have men and women that live in this community that are homeless. You have many people, black and brown people that I represent that are homeless.”

Sepulveda continued, “And it is heartbreaking to me to hear how these people are being described.” 

Sepulveda then informally introduced former Councilwoman and current Deputy Commissioner of Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Annabel Palma, who came through the shelter system, when the crowd began to voice its opposition.

“They’re not all criminals,” Sepulveda added, “They’re not all drug addicts. They’re not all a danger to society. I will tell you I will never lie to this community, I will not tell you that a shelter is not coming here, because if I did tell you that, I would be lying to my community.”

Freshman Assemblywoman Karines Reyes began to lose the crowd almost instantly, when she said, “We can not make informed decisions without information… and then you decide what you do with it.” Reyes would soon set the crowd into a fury when she added, “The City of New York has committed to put a shelter in every single community.”

Reyes hinted that members of Community Board # 9 dropped the ball, that the shelter proposal has been on the legislative calendar since 2018 and at one point, told one heckler in the audience to, “shut up.”

The crowd immediately became vocal as Palma attempted to speak and she was easily drowned out as she attempted to speak to the crowd, “Excuse me, Excuse me…” Palma spoke to the residents like a principal would speak to an auditorium full of third-graders.

Palma quickly lost all control of the meeting when she told the crowd, “I came here out of respect for the community. If this meeting is disrespectful, I can walk myself… home.”

Concerns around the facility that will be located at 2008 Westchester Avenue include the facilities proximity is walking distance to two schools, some of the residents of the shelter could have ‘low-level sex offender’ status and opponents say Samaritan Daytop Village has a lousy record with background checks of it’s own staff.

Many residents walked out of the meeting and walked a short distance to a second public meeting held at the Bronx Charter School for Excellence. The school’s founder and principal Dr. Charlene Reid, who’s interaction with Sepulveda helped derail the meeting, was discussing plans of action including protests against Samaritan Daytop Village– when a security guard ordered this reporter from the meeting, and even flipping the bird for the camera.

Meanwhile, a judge hearing arguments for a planned shelter along “billionaires row,” in Manhattan just granted a temporary restraining order that could tie the case up in court for years and set a precedent that could be the monkey wrench that opponents of the Parkchester shelter were looking for.

Calls for comment to both Community Board # 9 and Samaritan Daytop Village were not immediately returned. 

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