Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Less than two weeks ago, Diaz sent a letter to the offices of the two deputy mayors expressing his displeasure with their support for turning the Sgt. Joseph A. Muller Army Reserve Center (ARC) into a 200-bed homeless shelter for men.
Diaz said the Bronx had other (better) plans for the site, which the Department of Defense closed as part of its Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) effort.
"Local elected officials at all levels, including my office, have expressed support for relocating the National Guard units from the Kingsbridge Armory to the ARC, and are opposed to the homeless shelter proposal," Diaz wrote in the letter dated Oct. 14.
The removal of the guard units from the Armory's annex buildings would free those buildings up to become schools, which activists have long advocated for and the overcrowded local school district badly needs.
Diaz spokesman John DeSio said Diaz was "not happy" to find out that the other two members of the Muller Local Redevelopment Authority, which was tasked with finding a suitable use for the abandoned reserve center, were planning to vote to recommend the homeless shelter at the authority's scheduled meeting at 11 a.m. at the downtown office of the city's Economic Development Corporation.
After combing through the fine print with lawyers, DeSio said they believe the authority requires Diaz's presence to have an official quorom to vote on anything, including any recommendation. In other words: no Diaz, no vote.
Some believe the deputy mayors might be making the shelter recommendation as payback for Diaz's effort last fall to kill the city's plan to turn the Armory into a shopping mall after a deal to guarantee living wages at the mall fell through.
DeSio said he doesn't think it's a case of revenge. "The mayor's office is above those types of petty games," he said.
As part of BRAC, local redevelopment authorities are required to look at the needs of the homeless in the community and act to help alleviate homelessness if there is a problem.
But Diaz and others in the community argue that the Wakefield area is already inundated with shelters and other transitional facilities. Some 160 beds for homeless are already in the work within a three-mile radius of the Muller Center. Another 200 beds would damage the community, Diaz argued in his letter.
"Bringing 360 units/beds online at the same time within a three-block radius will have a tremendous impact on a low-rise, middle-class, homeowner community that currently plays host to the largest number of group homes in the borough," Diaz wrote.
Tomorrow, at the Borough Board meeting, Diaz, Father Richard Gorman and Councilman Oliver Koppell are expected to bring a motion to send a letter from the entire board to the two deputy mayors saying they opposed the homeless shelter at the Muller Center and instead want the Armory guard units moved there.