Community Action Forces Illegal Shelter to Close

Community Board 3, Small Businesses, Residents, Block Presidents Take Back Malcolm X Blvd.

A victory took place in Bedford-Stuyvesant this week. Residents, merchants, civic leaders and elected officials joined forces to express their concerns about a rehabilitation center that covertly moved into the area in the beginning of January. Standing in solidarity, the collective succeeded in forcing the Gelzer Foundation, that ran a temporary housing facility for recovering alcohol and drug addicts, at 332 Malcolm X Blvd. out of the neighborhood.

WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS! Reverend Jesse Sumbry of King Emannuel Baptist Church; Henry L. Butler, chairperson, Community Board #3; and Eric Smith, President, Bainbridge St. Block Association (Malcolm X & Patchen) are determined to establish Bedford-Stuyvesant as a safe, vibrant neighborhood for young people like Mr. Smith’s daughter, Erica, a student at P.S. 262 where she studies the violin. Along with numerous residents, local business owners, politicians and agencies, these men wrested control of an illegal shelter from the unscrupulous.

After a weeklong battle, neighbors were thrilled to learn that the beat-up van that dropped off the wayward clan returned to reclaim the bed frames and mattresses it left behind. Earlier in the month, members of the community met with two representatives from the Gelzer Foundation. Unfortunately, the meeting only raised more questions and suspicions about how this organization, which apparently receives some city funding and holds no certificate with the state, was able to enter a neighborhood undetected.
After the request for a second meeting and documentation of the agency’s legitimacy was declined, the collective swung into action. True to the time in which we live in, there were no picket signs or bull horns demanding justice. Instead, the fight played out in cyberspace with e-mail campaigns fired off at jet speed to elected officials and civic leaders; and numerous blog postings and text messages soliciting support. New York Daily News, Our Time Press, the Real Deal Newspaper and News 12 covered the action; phone calls were placed to the agency, forcing elected officials to take action. By Friday, the Gelzer Foundation had enough and permanently closed its doors.
Program housing is a major concern in Bedford-Stuyvesant and other low-income communities throughout the city. Although the city and state has placed a “fair share clause” which monitors the number of program agencies committed to one region, developers and venture capitalists are able to exploit the lucrative market by secretly setting up such agencies in privately owned homes.
Community Board 3, which meets regularly with several city agencies during its closed-session meetings, promises to address the issue in a public forum soon. Chairman Henry Butler commended Bainbridge Street & Malcolm X Blvd. , Block Association and the Malcolm X Merchants Association for their unwavering commitment in tackling the issue noting that it was the community’s acting in the early stages that made the difference.


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