Opponents of Homeless in Bronx Apartment Building Lose a Round in Court

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Sandi Lusk
The Bronx merchants' group that unsuccessfully sued the Department of Homeless Services for quietly entering into an agreement to rent units in a brand new apartment building tried last week to make the city do a study and hold a hearing before letting the homeless in. The judge rebuffed them.

Attorneys filed a motion in Bronx State Supreme court on Friday, asking Judge Geoffrey D. Wright to hear out their arguments. The judge tossed their suit, which aimed to prevent the agency from paying a $90 per-diem rate per apartment to house the homeless, which agreement they claim the city made with the landlord without notifying the community or conducting a hearing.

Wright ruled that the agency's oral agreement with the landlord of 1564 St. Peter's Square did not require the fair share analysis and hearing the plaintiffs demanded.

"Surely the Court doesn't believe that the City is paying an organization more than $1,600,000 per year without any written agreement," the attorneys for the Westchester Square Merchants' Association argued in their motion.

The business group said that the city unjustly fattened the landlord's wallet. "The subject building was constructed as luxury housing for middle class families and could very well have been occupied by them if the City had not offered to double the landlord's income," court papers read.

The attorneys said their case differs from one that Wright used as precedent for his ruling. In that instance the city transformed motel rooms into housing for the homeless in the absence of a lease. Unlike the St. Peter's Avenue building, the motel already served as a revolving door for transients before the agency began providing shelter there.

"Using this building as a transient homeless shelter is dramatically changing the intended use of the building and resulting fabric of the community," they argued.

The merchants group and the city will appear in court again on February 17.

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