A new Carroll Gardens homeless shelter built on old relationships
Still, apartments in the area tend to rent in the $2,000-a-month range. Though DHS would not comment on leasing arrangements, if the arrangement provides anything close to the rent in the Upper West Side deal, the building's landlord could end up profiting handsomely from his white elephant.
The building is registered to a company called Tunnel Condos LLC. The deed shows that the company is associated with a real estate attorney named Charles Wertman, who, as it happens, is listed on the Housing Solutions website as member of the nonprofit’s board.
Wertman, who goes by the nickname "Chesky" according to his profile on Linkedin, is the general counsel for Amsterdam Hospitality, a Manhattan-based boutique hotel chain. He did not respond to voicemail or an email message sent to his work account.
Janik and Hess declined to comment on whether Wertman stood to profit personally from the no-bid contract.
When I asked Janik about the propriety of D.H.S.’s relationship with Hess—which has come under criticism from elected officials opposing the similarly expedited Upper West Side homeless shelter—she bristled.
“He has followed all proper procedures with the conflict of interest board to be cleared to do business with the city and has 30-plus years of experience in the field of homeless services,” Janik said.
A community meeting to discuss the project is scheduled for October 24, and Janik said that D.H.S. had no timetable for the approval process.
“I don’t know if it will be months after the public meeting, I don’t know if it will be soon after the public meeting,” she said.
The event is just for show, however. The process is designed to limit the public’s power, for obvious practical reasons: few neighborhoods would welcome a homeless shelter if they had any say in the matter. Even in liberal Carroll Gardens, fretful residents are raising questions about property values and safety, forwarding alarmist news articles about a similar shelter in Queens, which houses a substantial number of sex offenders. (D.H.S. says it is legally obliged to offer shelter to all needy citizens, regardless of criminal records.)
Several knowledgeable sources said that swift approval of the shelter is a forgone conclusion.
On Friday evening, the long-darkened building was suddenly lit up, and conversion work was apparently underway—though no work permits have been filed with the Buildings Department. Looking for a foreman, I opened the building’s front door, glimpsing a lobby full of construction debris. The front hallway was full of haphazardly stacked cardboard boxes: bunk beds, ready to be assembled.
*This line has been updated from the original article to reflect the fact that after publication, Janik amended the information she provided about the number of contracts awarded to by the city to Aguila after Hess joined the company. She had initially said that all four contracts of Aguila's contracts with the city were awarded after the company came under new leadership.