Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shelter Controversy



Father Richard F. Gorman
Community Board #12 (The Bronx)

The Ball Is In Your Court,
Mr. McDonald on Homeless Shelters

BRONX, NEW YORK, May 2- Our Friend, The Honorable John C. Liu, currently Comptroller of the City of New York and a contender for the nomination of the Democratic Party to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in January of 2014, did not let us down  --  “us” being the people of The Bronx overall and, in particular, the residents of Community Board #12 (The Bronx).

When approached by the Borough President of The Bronx, The Honorable Ruben Diaz, Jr., for his help, Comptroller Liu stepped up to the plate. The help sought by Borough President Diaz was with the contract being offered by the New York City Department of Homeless Services (N.Y.C.D.H.S.) to The Doe Fund, Incorporated to operate a homeless facility for 200 men in recovery for alcohol and/or chemical dependencies in the former Sergeant Joseph A. Muller United States Army Reserve Center (Muller U.S.A.R.C.) in the Wakefield section of Bronx Community District #12. Said contract, for a term of 21 years and in the amount of $91 million, was ready to be registered, an action delegated to the Office of the Comptroller by THE CHATER OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

Prior to the amendments to THE NEW YORK CITY CHARTER enacted in 1989, the Comptroller, by refusing to register a contract, would effectively prevent the contract from being entered into by the City of New York.

After the 1989 Revision went into effect, the Comptroller’s power in this area was weakened. Henceforth, the Comptroller could stop any municipal agency from entering into any proposed contract, franchise, revocable consent, or concession by presenting in writing reasons for believing that there had been corruption in letting the contract or that the contractor had engaged in corrupt practices. The Mayor would subsequently be required to respond to the objections of the Comptroller in writing and personally to make a final determination regarding the contract. In response to concerns that a valuable check and balance upon the already substantial power of the Mayor was being removed, the Chairman of the Charter Revision Commission, Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., a close political and personal confidant of the then Mayor, the late Edward I. Koch, as well as his Corporation Counsel, retorted that no Mayor in his right political mind would ever move forward on a contract or other financial arrangement called into question by the City Comptroller on the taint and/or the suspicion of corruption. Begging your pardon, Mr. Schwarz, but while such may well have been true of your boss and buddy, Mayor Koch, you apparently never foresaw the likes of Rudolph W. Giuliani or Michael R. Bloomberg taking up residence at City Hall!

Comptroller Liu based his decision to reject the contract on alleged “questions concerning legitimacy of the required approval process represented to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) in seeking approval for the project.” The Comptroller stated that he had been “unable to verify whether the City properly followed federal regulations in the disposition of the former Muller Army Reserve Center” that is located at 555 East 238TH Street/ Nereid Avenue in Community Board #12 (The Bronx).

Before re-purposing a military facility for a non-military function, the Federal Government requires that a Local Redevelopment Authority (“L.R.A.”) recommend the best possible alternative use for the site. In 2008, a three-member L.R.A., consisting of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, and the Borough President of The Bronx, was constituted in order to consider uses for the Muller U.S.A.R.C. Mr. Liu asserted that it was unclear how the Local Redevelopment Authority (L.R.A.) came to an ultimate recommendation and that documentation evidencing the L.R.A.’s approval was not submitted with the proposed contract.  Borough President Diaz has steadfastly maintained that no vote was ever held to determine the L.R.A.’s final proposal, which would be a violation of the Federally mandated process.

Not surprisingly, the Bloomberg Administration, in the person of
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, blasted Comptroller Liu for supposed political shenanigans designed to foster his Mayoral aspirations while averring that, far from ignoring the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (U.S.H.U.D.), the City had extensively engaged it in all stages of the process.

Interestingly enough, however, Deputy Mayor Gibbs, in issuing her political broadside against Comptroller Liu, never specifically deniedand/or offered convincing evidence that Messrs. Liu and Diaz were wrong in declaring that no legitimate vote of the Local RedevelopmentAuthority (L.R.A.) was ever properly taken. The end result is that itappears that the contract between The Doe Fund, Incorporated and the City of New York to refurbish the Muller Center and to manage it as a homeless shelter is going full speed ahead.

While, in the final analysis, this issue may well have to be litigated, I would like to propose that all parties, especially those
who will be liberally utilizing our hard-earned tax dollars, save our scarce shekels for a more wholesome and sensible purpose than that of enriching attorneys. The President and Founder of The Doe Fund, Incorporated, Mr. George A. McDonald, has impressed me as a man of true sensibility, sensitivity, and integrity. I have met the gentleman and am genuinely convinced of his authentic concern for the less fortunate and his success in addressing their plight. I would hope that he would not want either his good name or the fine reputation of his Doe Fund to be demeaned or, in any fashion, sullied by the stench of illegality or impropriety. Ergo, I propose to Mr. McDonald that he defer further action on the contract between his organization and the
New York City Department of Homeless Services (N.Y.C.D.H.S.) to operate a homeless facility in a refurbished Muller U.S.A.R.C. until such time as the question of whether or not the Federal guidelines were assiduously complied with is thoroughly and truthfully resolved.

In light of the fact Mr. McDonald and Mayor Bloomberg, whom he seeks to replace this year as the candidate of the Republican Party for Mayor of the City of New York, are such good friends, I would trust that our good Mayor Mike would consent to a methodical and meticulous airing of this hotly contested concern so as not to drag the clean-living character of his amigo through the mud. 

So what do you say, George? The ball is now on your side of the court. Please reach out to your ally and pal. Let us see how your good chum, the Mayor, will play this round.

Until next time, that is it for this time!

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