BY JAMES FARRELL
New York City will team up with nonprofit developers to purchase controversial “cluster site” buildings—which often provide subpar housing units to homeless individuals—and rehabilitate them before returning them to the market as permanent affordable housing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
The city will also use eminent domain to acquire buildings where negotiations are unsuccessful.
De Blasio announced in February that the city was committed to ending the use of clusters as part of its plan to solve New York City’s ongoing homelessness crisis. He received pressure to make such a change after two toddlers—1-year-old Scylee Vayoh Ambrose and 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose—were killed by a shoddy radiator in a cluster apartment in the Bronx last year.
“Our city’s homelessness crisis wasn’t created overnight and it won’t be solved overnight,” de Blasio said. “It requires us to come up with creative and bold new strategies to help those on the street and those in need of shelter and affordable permanent housing. This initiative will transform dozens of dilapidated temporary apartments into quality, permanently affordable homes.”
The city is targeting buildings in which 50 percent or more of apartments are cluster apartment and has, so far, identified 25 to 30 such sites. Currently, 2,272 homeless families live in cluster sites. There are no cluster sites in Queens, according to the Department of Homeless Services.
Queens, however, led the city in number of hotels being used for homeless housing through November 2016, according to previously published reports. The city has also promised to phase out that practice.
Jon Cronin contributed to this report.