New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. has called on the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to reconsider its plan to move the City’s intake center for homeless men from the Bellevue Shelter at 30th Street in Manhattan to the Bedford-Atlantic Armory in Brooklyn.
In a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Thompson wrote: “I join the many Manhattan and Brooklyn communities that have questioned the wisdom of abandoning this local drop-in center and the impact it would have on the quality of services available to our City’s homeless population. I also note that the failure to use an open and transparent process has alienated both the affected communities and advocates for the homeless.”
In his letter, which can be viewed at www.comptroller.nyc.gov, Thompson further questioned DHS’s cost analysis which it has used to justify the proposed relocation. “The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has advanced a number of reasons to justify this proposed relocation, one being that the Bellevue facility has become too expensive to operate and that the move will result in long-term cost savings to the City. I note, however, that DHS has failed to disclose its analysis or cost estimates of the planned transition to justify even this pronouncement.”
Thompson continued, “As my office has recently documented, DHS operations – most recently its vendor payment and contracting efforts – remain opaque and plagued by accounting irregularities….This does not instill a high degree of confidence with respect to DHS’s current representations and its alleged analysis regarding DHS’s plan for the Bellevue Shelter and the Bedford-Atlantic Armory.”
“Once again, I urge that your administration re-consider this ill-advised decision, and that in the future, DHS commits to a more inclusive and collaborative decision-making process,” Thompson concluded.
Earlier this month, in a letter to Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, Thompson harshly criticized DHS for using an off-the-books account to pay service providers – even though City Hall had committed to a more accountable and transparent payment process in 2003.
In October 2003, Comptroller Thompson issued an audit of DHS examining controls over payments to hotel and scatter site units, which operate without contracts. The audit found that an increasing number of facilities were being brought online outside the City’s official procurement process.
In response to the findings, Mayor Bloomberg and then-DHS Commissioner Mayor Gibbs unveiled a joint initiative to obtain more homeless facilities through a formal contracting process, including registration by the Comptroller’s office.
However, Thompson’s new analysis showed that the City has not been true to its word.
“It appears that DHS has expanded beyond making payments for per-diem housing without contracts to include payments for social services as well,” Thompson said. Additionally, DHS continues to pay providers using a separate bank account other than the City’s customary treasury account.
“The use of an account such as this distorts the City’s records and substantially reduces transparency and accountability,” Thompson said earlier this month, noting how the account has grown from $52,051,660 in 2001 to $161,132,332 in 2008.