In a letter to federal authorities, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said the mayor's office blatantly skirted the formal process meant to determine a new use for the vacant Muller Army Reserve Center in Wakefield in order to push its own agenda – the creation of a 200-bed men's homeless shelter at the center.
Because of this, and what Diaz characterized as a complete disregard of public sentiment, Diaz asked the two agencies responsible for approving a plan for the Muller Center – the United State Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEM)- to reject the shelter plan submitted by the mayor's office. He also asked them to “convene a meeting amongst the parties to determine how, if possible, a conforming submission could still be provided.”
If this doesn't happen, Diaz says, “I will have no choice but to pursue legal action.”
Meanwhile, Yonkers Mayor Philip Amicone sent a letter to Bloomberg urging his administration to reconsider its “seriously flawed” shelter plan because of the negative impact it would have on Yonkers, which shares a border-line with Wakefield that lies just 250 feet from the Muller Center.
“Astonishingly,” Amicone writes, the mayor's plan “makes no mention of the proposed facility's possible effects on our City nor our residents.” He adds one paragraph later, “For this reason alone, the plan to locate a homeless shelter at the Muller facility is seriously flawed and should be reconsidered.”
After closing the Muller Center, the Department of Defense created a local redevelopment authority (LRA) to come up with a plan for the building's re-use. Diaz and two of Bloomberg's deputy mayors, Linda Gibbs and Robert Steel, make up the LRA.
From the beginning, the mayor's office has insisted the site become a homeless shelter, saying there is a need for more beds and the Bronx isn't doing its part in housing homeless men. At the same time, Diaz, other elected officials (city, state and federal) and local Bronx residents have blasted the shelter plan, saying the Wakefield is already over-burdened with supportive housing.
Plus, shelter opponents say, they have a better and cheaper plan for the Muller Center: use it to house the National Guard units currently occupying the Kingsbridge Armory annex buildings.That would clear the way for those buildings to be turned into badly-needed schools for the northwest Bronx's overcrowded District 10.
In the letter, Diaz details the long, controversy-filled story of the LRA's efforts over the past two years, culminating in the mayor's office sending of submission of its homeless shelter recommendation on June 29 without input or authorization from Diaz's office.