Thanks to the advice he found just blocks from his Bronx home, 70-year-old Eulalio Solis saved his apartment from a huge rent hike. But according to a decision made by the city’s Department for the Aging last week, this kind of advocacy work is not what the city had in mind for its funding. So now thousands of southwest Bronx seniors could soon lose such services from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The city Department for the Aging announced in April that it would award the $600,000 case assistance contract that for years has gone to CAB, a 28-year-old nonprofit serving 4,000 seniors a year, to Neighborhood Shop, an agency based in Soundview. Without these funds, says CAB, the agency will be forced to shutter its three walk-in offices along the Grand Concourse where seniors get help with welfare and health care benefits. The agency also expects to lose its repair program, which sends handymen to clients’ homes to repair everything from locks to leaks, broken windows to smoke detectors.
While emphasizing that she values the services offered by Neighborhood Shop, which serves 1,600 seniors in about a dozen Bronx centers, CAB Executive Director Carolyn McLaughlin said, “Funding an agency on the other side of the borough does not replace these well-established programs here.” It is unclear why the contract was lost (DFTA did not return calls.) But in a recent letter rejecting an appeal made by CAB, the city explained it did not want its funds used for tenant advocacy cases like Solis’: “Most of the minor repair services claimed by CAB were actually advocacy actions related to housing issues,” wrote Commissioner Herbert Stupp.
This comment comes as a surprise to the advice bureau, however, since it received nearly perfect ratings in their city evaluations in January. McLaughlin is filing a second appeal. With time running short, CAB is lobbying City Councilmembers to put funds for the agency into their new budget. They have met with Councilman Adolfo Carrion Jr. and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is also on their side. The mayoral hopeful recently shot off a letter to DFTA demanding a review of the contracts process for what he called an “incredibly qualified” group.