New York Newsday | March 25, 1987
By Sharman Stein
Pressure mounted on the Koch administration to drop its plans for 20 new shelters for the homeless as Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins called yesterday for the city to instead rehabilitate vacant apartments for homeless families.
Releasing a detailed report from his task force on homeless families, Dinkins said the report is “so credible” that it will persuade officials to abandon the idea of building four large shelters in each borough at a total cost of about $100 million.
Borough presidents in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are also opposed to the 20-shelter project, which requires 6 of 11 votes on the Board of Estimate. The mayor, the City Council president and comptroller, each of whom has two votes, have yet to indicate their stands. The borough presidents each have one vote.
Stella Schindler, director of the Mayor’s Office for the Homeless and SRO Housing, said the shelters are the quickest way to provide emergency housing. Depending only on city-owned property is too risky because the vacant apartments require too much time for renovation, she said, adding that the 4,000 apartments renovated each year for the homeless are not enough to meet the immediate need for emergency shelter.
“We don’t see an end to people coming to us for shelter,” Schindler said. “We are trying to meet that need.” She said the 15 shelters for families, which will house 100 families each in private, one- or two-room units, will be “spartan but livable.” The shelters for singles will each house 200.
The city now shelters 4,800 homeless families and about 10,000 single individuals in congregate shelters and hotels.
Dinkins’ task force, composed of housing and social service experts, said there is enough city-owned housing to provide 7,000 rehabilitated apartments annually – at a cost of $55,000 to $65,000 a unit – compared with up to $90,000 a unit in the shelters. It also said communities would be more willing to accept rehabilitated housing than shelters.
Schindler said she did not know the number of available city apartments, because the Department of Housing Preservation and Development is still compiling an inventory.
“I’m convinced that the city and the Human Resources Administration are as concerned as we are,” Dinkins said. “I do not accuse them of being insensitive, or not caring. They just have the wrong philosophy.”
Peter Smith, president of the Partnership for the Homeless, said he hoped that Dinkins’ recommmendations – many of which were made last year by the partnership – might now received serious consideration.
Quens Borough President Claire Shulman said she would support Dinkins’ plan for Manhattan. In Queens, however, which has few vacant buildings, she has suggested the construction of facilities for a maximum of 25 families apiece.