February 16, 2017; N.Y. Daily News
The Bushwick Economic Development Corp. (BEDCO), with a $28 million dollar budget, has been repeatedly cited for providing decaying hotels and apartments for the homeless. Still, New York City, desperate to meet the needs of the city’s 60,000 homeless, signed a $16 million contract with the organization to house the displaced. Eight months later, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that the city will phase out the relationship with the development corporation, cancelling the contract.
BEDCO utilizes 11 hotels and what they consider “cluster sites” of 33 decrepit apartment buildings across the boroughs of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The nonprofit has 12 current contracts with the Department of Homeless Services. Though they have differing timelines, most will run out this calendar year and will be reviewed. The $16 million contract was scheduled to run until 2020.
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The city will move those living in BEDCO units to other sites. Last year, Mayor de Blasio promised to eliminate “cluster sites” in two years, with a goal of eliminating the use of hotels as housing.
The mayor is caught between the classic rock and hard place: a burgeoning homeless population and a lack of safe, well-maintained housing. BEDCO, among several others, was cited in March of 2015 for numerous violations among its squalid apartment buildings, including a dead rat that lay in a lobby for days. Two infants died from scalding in December because of a broken radiator, a condition that had been reported but not fixed. The Department of Investigation criticized the city for continuing to use the housing groups even on an “emergency” basis, but there are few alternatives in a city where the average rent is about $2,700 a month.
The mayor was criticized for not addressing the homelessness crisis in his State of the City address last week. It was not reported who will fill the void of BEDCO’s cancelled contract.—Marian Conway