The Real Deal New York

The city wants to spend $98M to turn apartment buildings into homeless shelters, and tenant advocates are sweating

Critics say the conversion program encourages harassment
August 30, 2017 10:01AM

3001 Briggs Avenue in the Bronx

City Hall is working on a $98 million deal to turn five apartment buildings into permanent homeless shelters and keep another six buildings in the notorious cluster site program for another three years.

The five buildings due for conversion are currently part of the cluster site program, a Rudolph Giuliani-era creation that uses privately owned apartments to house homeless families.

Advocates worry that the costly program encourages tenant harassment, because landlords can often jack up their profits by kicking out stabilized tenants and turning their units into homeless shelters. The city pays up to $3,000 per month to house a single homeless family.

“The city is rewarding harassing behavior,” Scott Hutchins of advocacy group Picture the Homeless told Gothamist.

The 11 buildings in question, located in Brooklyn and the Bronx, have around 300 apartments and 449 open building violations between them, according to Gothamist.

“One of the concerns is that if they transition these eleven buildings that may have some regular rent stabilized tenants left, the owner can claim a permanent exemption from rent stabilization,” Rajiv Jaswa of the Urban Justice Center told Gothamist. “I’m not sure if there’s a mechanism to reverse that after the fact.”

The five buildings to be operated as shelters are 3001 Briggs Avenue, 1838 Vyse Avenue, 1387 Grand Concourse, and 1237-1243 Webster Avenue in the Bronx and 526 Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn. The six buildings whose cluster site status would be extended are 124 Stuyvesant Avenue, 38 Cooper Street, 389 Chauncey Street, 429 Bainbridge Street, 853 Halsey Street, and 1027 Putnam Avenue in Brooklyn.

Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will end the cluster site program by 2021, three years later than previously planned. [Gothamist]Konrad Putzier