Potential Resident To CBS 2: 'We're Not Animals, We're Human Beings'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and others have come out against the City Department of Homeless Services and its plan to open a large-scale homeless shelter in a residential area on the Upper West Side.

Stringer, Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, City Council member Gale Brewer and members of Community Board 7 are calling on the DHS to suspend its efforts to move people into buildings at 316 and 330 West 95th St., in Manhattan.

1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports

They claim the city built the shelter too fast and “moved in with virtually no community consultation and no transparency,” adding that 71 units in the buildings are still occupied by legal tenants.

“New Yorkers understand that all neighborhoods share in the responsibility to provide housing to those in need,” Stringer said in a statement. “But abruptly moving a 400-person shelter into a residential neighborhood in the dead of summer with no community consultation, no contract and no long-term plan only creates bad will and sets back the cause of fighting homelessness.”

Stringer and the other officials said they have a laundry list of objections, including charges there was insufficient planning and that the man given the contract to run the shelter is actually the former commissioner of the DHS, Robert Hess.

“That’s a very unfortunate and inappropriate allegation. Mr. Hess runs a respected company,” current DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond said.

On Monday, Diamond announced that families are being moved into the first 10 emergency shelter units. About 200 more are expected in the coming months. Those who will use the shelter got off a bus Tuesday with bags of their meager belongings all set to “move on up” and walked into a buzz saw of community opposition.

“This is a nice neighborhood. I mean, I don’t think this is a good idea,” resident Mario Dubouley said.

“This area in general has been overburdened by the number of SROs. It’s a political issue around here,” added Susan Shilling.

But as Shawn Joell showed CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer the garden in the new shelter, he had a moving message for those who don’t want him in their community.

“The people of the community need to ought to know that we’re not animals, we’re human beings who just had a misfortune. [We are] trying to get back on our feet and deserve the opportunity like anybody else,” Joell said.

Diamond assured area residents there will be no problems.

“We work very closely with the community to make sure that they’re good neighbors,” Diamond said.

The shelter is regarded as transitional housing, where the residents share communal kitchens and bathrooms.

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