Many Questions Surround West 9th Street Building Slated To Become Homeless Shelter

As the community is getting ready to attend Wednesday's informational meeting regarding the proposed 170-bed homeless shelter at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens, more disturbing details about the ownership of the building slated to house the shelter are coming to light.

Capital New York reporter Andrew Rice has done an outstanding job investigating the many players behind Tunnel Condos LLC., the private corporation in whose name the building is held. Some of the 'owners' seem to have rather cushiony ties to Housing Solutions USA/Aguila Inc., the Bronx-based non-profit organization that is proposing the shelter.
Read his article here.

In addition, there seem to be a fair number of open questions regarding the building's Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) issued by NYC Department Of Buildings.
The 10-unit building was originally designed and self-certified by architect Robert Scarano, who subsequently was stripped of his self-certification privileges for violating zoning and building codes on projects in Brooklyn. Though the West 9th Street building was completed in 2002, a C. of O. was not issued until 2010.

Some of these issues concern the lot-line windows of the property. Unless the owners of 165 East 9th Street purchased the air rights of the neighboring buildings, these lot line windows are not legal sources of light and ventilation for habitable rooms.

According to NYC's Building Code, habitable rooms must have window area at least equal to 10% of their floor area. If any room in this building relies on lot line windows to meet the light and ventilation requirements, that room would not be legally habitable.

The original zoning for the site was R6 in a C2-C3 local service district. Even with the bonus Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for community facilities (doctors offices) on the basement cellar and mezzanine levels of the building, the maximum FAR for the building should have been 4.80. The existing FAR on record is 5.61. How then did a building that is so out of compliance get a Cof O?

The homeless shelter is being authorized by NYC Department of Homeless Services under an “emergency contract” rule. It seems evident that under the contract some basic building requirements, such as maximum occupancy, may be lifted.

However, one really has to wonder how NYC DoB could have legalized a building that obviously violated quite a few rules.

More disturbing is how this city has privatized social services and how homelessness has become so lucrative that it seems to have attracted some very shady players and may have compromised the Buildings Department.

I encourage everyone to attend the Community Meeting tomorrow, Wednesday October 24th, 6:30 PM at PS 58.  Hopefully, we will get some answers to these questions.