Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wakefield Gives Plenty of Shelter

By Father Richard F. Gorman
Community Board #12 (The Bronx)
BRONX, NEW YORK, October 10- I remember an occasion while in college that I was supposed to be completing a foreign language assignment in the language lab for one of my professors. 
Not being especially fond of the designated project, the professor, or the course on the whole, I soon found myself not responding in a foreign language to questions posed to me, but listening to a favorite song of mine that was a hit by the iconic British rock band, THE ROLLING STONES. It was called Gimme Shelter and it initially was released in 1969 as the opening track of THE STONES’ successful album, “Let It Bleed”. It was a fascinating musical masterpiece created by the combination of band member Keith Richards’ expertise on the rhythm guitar and the matchless and distinctive voice of lead vocalist, Mick Jagger. One of the noteworthy and appealing highlights of this tuneful tour de force was the performance of a guest vocalist, Merry Clayton, who was purported to be any number of other female singers. Her presentation with its idiosyncratic high notes is a significant contribution to the overall appeal of this composition, which is ranked thirty-eighth on the list of the trendy music, liberal politics, and pop culture magazine, ROLLING STONE, enumerating “The Five Hundred Greatest Songs of All Time.”  
Oh, before I forget, please permit me the opportunity to finish telling you my story about chilling with THE STONES rather than doing my college course work! To cut to the chase, my professor just happened to meander into the language lab for some reason or another at the time and, in the process of checking with the lab technician on the whether or not I was hard at work on my assignment and what sort of progress I had made with it, he discovered my preference for Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Company rather than for his work of art.  Interrupting my musical enjoyment, the professor barked through the system and into my headphones that while THE ROLLING STONES might be giving me shelter, he was going to give me the grade of “F” for the assignment if I did not complete it forthwith. Some people just cannot stand to watch other people having fun!
Some people living in good neighborhoods apparently cannot abide by other people enjoying an equivalent quality of life where they live. An article was published almost two weeks ago in THE BRONX SECTION of THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS entitled “Won’t Give Shelter.” Apparently, the caption editor of the newspaper, like myself, is a fan of THE ROLLING STONES and an aficionado(a) of one of their greatest hits. (S)He is not, however, too masterful in creating captions for newspaper articles, at least not in this instance. Far from not wanting to afford shelter to our homeless brothers and sisters, Wakefield, as the article in question aptly reports, is very quickly becoming a great, big colony of shelters servicing one group or another within the homeless population at-large.
With three facilities in short walking distance of each other already slated for Wakefield, it is shamefully unacceptable that this bucolic residential neighborhood would be compelled to assimilate yet a fourth. The people of Wakefield undertook a sustained and hard-fought effort to re-zone their neighborhood in such a way so as to facilitate the construction of higher-density residential and mixed-use development along White Plains Road. They like their neighbors throughout Community Board #12 (The Bronx) sought to attract both new apartment buildings and businesses to this commercial boulevard in desperate need of revitalization. It is simply catastrophic, as it has lately turned out, that most of the new, higher-density structures so far being planned in the re-designated “R-4” Zone encompassing White Plains Road are social service facilities.  Are the citizens of Wakefield and of Bronx Community District #12 to be condemned for dreaming of a better quality of life and of a more vibrant neighborhood for themselves and their children? Are they to be criticized for wanting to reinvigorate commercial and residential life along a street with a long and proud history both in our District and the Borough of The Bronx?
Criticism in the aforesaid article comes courtesy of THE ACACIA NETWORK, formerly known as BASICS/Promesa, which seeks in collusion with Westchester developer Mark Stagg to fill 4453 White Plains Road at East 240TH Street with homeless individuals and families. ACACIA Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) Raul Russi, a former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, contends that Community Board #12 (The Bronx) has less homeless shelters than other Districts. I do not dispute this fact nor do I disagree with Commissioner Russi if he is arguing that the siting of shelters should be done on a fair and equitable basis. Kindly tell me, therefore, in all fairness, what other District is being saddled with four facilities in the last year and a half? Moreover, if other Community Boards have been unduly burdened with a overabundance of homeless facilities, is it either fair or sensible that the same injustice and unfairness be recreated in Community Board #12 (The Bronx)? I likewise take note of Mr. Russi’s admonition that the homeless person denied adequate and compassionate care might be one’s own blood or next-door neighbor. To this I say, let the residents of Bronx Community District #12, who have family members or local friends who are in fact homeless, bring them forward and I shall work along with Commissioner Russi to see that they are housed in one of the three shelters already intended for Wakefield.
Mark Stagg built 4453 White Plains Road for those who wished to live in our area as apartment dwellers. The fact that he included an underground garage for nearly 30 motor vehicles in his project is obvious proof of this. If Mr. Stagg was enough of a businessman to build this apartment house, then he should be enough of one and as smart as one to market and to rent them as planned. If not, Mr. Stagg should stop scheming with the folks at ACACIA NETWORK to recoup his investments and to balance his books on the backs of the people of Wakefield.
The cottage industry for the homeless forging social activists, special interest advocates, attorneys, Government bureaucrats, retired Government bureaucrats morphed into not-for-profit (N-F-P) bureaucrats, and conniving developers in a conspiracy against local neighborhoods needs to be blown up. It is high time that, at last, we neighborhood residents blow our stacks at it!
Until next time, that is it for this time!


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