The ‘Fix Was In’ On Peekskill Shelter Move –Residents Organized To Oppose

No Shelters

Back in June, when we exposed the Peekskill homeless shelter’s plan to relocate to a residential area on Washington Street we never expected the events that have unfolded or the disturbing facts about the shelter that have been uncovered.

By the time you read this entire post you will not only realize why the shelter doesn’t belong in the residential area proposed but you’ll question whether the shelter should be allowed to continue under the present operators (CHHOP) at all!

The shelter operators must be regretting getting caught for much more than the move itself, because the dirty little secrets and activity that have been happening there for years is now known to the public. Incredibly, they have doubled down on the move and unleashed a despicable and deceptive plan to deflect from the facts with outright lies and personal attacks against those concerned about the plan.

Why be so deceitful about the move? The answer that always gets Democrats (Claxton, etc.) in trouble – MONEY. Make no mistake – this shelter issue is not about people, it is all about money. Homeless shelters and most of these privately run social services providers are cash cows for those who run them.

Stay with us as we explain everything…

The Original Plan

By now, it is obvious to everyone that the FIX WAS IN. The All-Democratic Party Mayor and Council in Peekskill gave the secret assurance that all approvals will be granted – so just move forward. We know this for various reasons; the director and board members of the shelter were secretly visiting with prominent business owners and community leaders to attempt to gain support for the planned move – this activity started months before InsidePEEK became aware of the plan. The saying, ‘loose lips sink ships’ applies here. These shelter representatives were actually telling people they had the support of the council for the move!

There is another reason we know the fix was in – serious money was invested even before the plan was exposed. The building owner required a $25,000 non-refundable down payment to secure the building and CHHOP was given until mid-September to increase the non-refundable payment to $45,000. On top of that, a complete (and expensive) set of renovation plans were completed in the early summer!


CHOP New Building

Plans for the renovation of the new building were completed months before the move became known to the public!


Why spend all this money without having the approvals in place? How did they get access to a building they did not own to get these plans accomplished? That’s easy – because they knew they had the promise of their council friends to give them the approvals from the city.

Wait, where did a homeless shelter get so much money for this move? Why are they spending 3X the value of the building? More later on the shelter finances and the ‘grants’ they are promised to get. Remember how ‘grants’ work with Peekskill Democrats? Just ask Drew Claxton (who is now the Peekskill Democratic Party Chairperson).

No wonder they hoped to get this done without the public finding out!

https://insidepeekblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/public-calls-for-claxton-to-resign/

https://insidepeekblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/another-shoe-drops-in-claxton-corruption-case/

https://insidepeekblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/claxton-thinks-she-can-ignore-the-law/

https://insidepeekblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/claxton-saved-by-statute-of-limitations-for-now/

CHHOP’s New Plan

Given everything we mentioned so far, CHHOP operators knew they had to act fast – and get a professional public relations team on board. Enter the Democrat’s in-house fixer, Michael Morey. He didn’t want his name attached so he got some of his friends to help. Then he was the first to respond to CHHOP social media posts praising them, etc., – he gave himself away.

Time for ‘Plan B’ – Deny and Deflect. Phase 1 for the plan was to get all of their Democratic Party faithful and social media trolls to praise the shelter about what a great and important job they do. They knew that nobody concerned about the shelter move was against the existence of a homeless shelter or that they are needed to help people – it just shouldn’t be located in a residential area. People who don’t even live in Peekskill were helping them as they did during last year’s election. One even moved out of Peekskill to so her children didn’t have to go to Peekskill schools. Talk about hypocritical!

When the deflection didn’t work, CHHOP resorted to outright lies – and easily disprovable lies at that. They even went so far as to send one of their board members, a female priest, to be the ‘face’ of the shelter. Who doesn’t believe a priest? Such a clever plan to disseminate their lies and misrepresentations about the move (we thought priests were not supposed to lie or deceive). What they didn’t count on was the reaction of the neighborhood near the new location. The residents mobilized quickly and began countering the lies with facts and gained important early momentum. They even challenged the lies on a news12 broadcast and totally took control of the argument. Facts have a way of doing that to Democrats.

Thanks to meticulous research and discovery of previously buried information, the neighborhood began to share with everyone who would listen. They even attended (over 100 strong) two Common Council Meetings. More on those later.

Facts About the Washington Street Location

The operational word here is ZONING. We never thought we would learn so much about zoning and why it is so important. We always saw zoning laws as a form of government bureaucracy. We now have a new appreciation for zoning laws and why they are so important.

First, there is NO As-of-Right Zoning in Peekskill for a homeless shelter to be located ANYWHERE within the city. A special vote by the common council will be required to allow the zoning process to move forward – this is where the FIX was In. They had the promise many months ago from the council for a positive vote.

Then there would be a series of ‘variances’ needed to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals. No problem there either, the board is populated by Democratic Party faithful. In fact, the husband of the CHHOP Vice-Chair Ruth Wells, James Knight, is Vice-Chair of the Zoning Board. Then there would be Planning Board approvals needed. Not a problem, guess who is Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission? – Yup, CHHOP Vice-Chair Ruth Wells! See what we mean? Talk about needing to drain the swamp! All the pieces are in place – every board or commission in the city is full of Democratic Party District leaders and party faithful. They can pass anything they wish and protect their own – anywhere, anytime.

Now, the lie they are putting out there is that the zoning is commercial, not residential. It is “perfect” for a homeless shelter because there is a bus stop right in front and the county social services office just down the street. While the building was basically used as a warehouse for decades it is surrounded by homes and neighborhoods. There is even an ‘easement’ through this property from the single-family home directly behind the proposed shelter – another sticky situation to overcome.

InsidePEEK has discovered that the Peekskill shelter is a shelter specific to ‘substance abusers’ and not generally local homeless. In fact, there are no Peekskill homeless, they are brought to the city from down county and become ‘Peekskill residents.’ They claim to have a few beds for veterans but they are seldom filled. They just want to get $200,000+ grant revenue. Just down the road in Montrose is the Veteran’s Administration (VA) campus that is a much better and appropriate location for the veterans.

What is not being mentioned by CHHOP is that there are two local bars less than a block away on Washington Street. There are three deli/convenience stores a couple blocks away that sell beer too. Is this a healthy or SMART location for substance abusers to live? We don’t think so. This situation would just be a bad accident waiting to happen. The police reports from the current shelter location further down in the post reinforce this.

As for whether the proposed location is in a residential neighborhood, just look at the satellite view below to see the 171 residential homes within 500 feet of the proposed shelter:

Shelter site satellite

This satellite image clearly shows the location of the new shelter surrounded by residences.

More Facts About the CHHOP Homeless Shelter

What may be the most important fact of all – the shelter DOES NOT HAVE TO MOVE in the first place. The big lie is that the present building on Water Street is being foreclosed on – IT IS NOT! CHHOP claims they are being forced to move – THEY ARE NOT! The present owner of the Water Street property, Phil Miller, has gone public to state that they do not have to move – he was counting on them to stay. They simply plan to use this opportunity to obtain millions of dollars of NY State grant funding to fill their coffers.

Phil Miller Post

As we stated above, hundreds of local residents attended the council meetings and spoke about their concerns and others offered previously unknown information about the shelter. One speaker, a local prominent real estate broker, informed the council that she was very familiar with the building being purchased by CHHOP for approximately $900,000. She spoke of the decaying state of the building and the poor condition of the building’s infrastructure. Her estimate that the building is only worth 1/3 the value being paid by CHHOP. Really? If that is so, why would CHHOP, a “non-profit,” want to pay such an astronomical amount for an inferior building? Something smells here.

Then there is what is probably the most disturbing revelation about the history of the shelter itself – the hundreds of police calls and violence, assaults and overdoses that happen there on a regular basis. As mentioned above, CHHOP houses substance abusers and even child molesters have been known to live there. It can be a violent place – even some of their previous residents publicly said so.


Police Calls2

Recent police calls at present shelter show danger of relocating to a residential area!

 

Police Calls1


Follow the Money

Like we said at the beginning of this post, homeless shelters are big business and big money – all taxpayer money.

Thanks to our readers we have obtained records exposing CHHOP’s finances. There are a few telling things when looking at the documentation we were provided. First, the amount of money the shelter receives for each bed is unbelievable!

The “Public Assistance” provided through the county Department of Social Services (DSS) is a lofty $3,573.00 a month per bed! That doesn’t include the $192.00 a month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or SNAP (formally known as Food Stamps). On top of that, each resident is provided “Medical Assistance.” Now we see why they want a bigger facility and double the amount of beds!


funding1

funding2


The most telling document is the 990 Federal Income Tax document required by 501 (c) (3) corporations. The most recent available to the public is the 2016 filing – and what a document it is!

For 2016, CHHOP brought in $1.2 million dollars! Most of that ($704,934) was from the DSS funding per bed. The other revenue of over $400,000 comes from a few ‘veteran’ residents and HUD permanent residents at the shelter. We told you this was about big business, not people.

The return also shows that CHHOP’s expenses are far less than their revenue – they had over $600,000 in cash in the bank as of 2016! No wonder they had the money on hand to pay the new building owner $45K to secure the building sale! On the average, they bank around $100K a year, so by 2018 they probably had close to $800K savings! Are not-for-profits supposed to make so much PROFIT? Do the agencies giving them all this grant money even look at this stuff? Oh, that’s right, we are seeing the Dem Party swamp they are fighting to protect. No wonder Drew Claxton and her husband are defending them publicly and attacking legitimately concerned residents. She should be the last person saying anything…about anybody.

According to one of our readers who sent us the 990 (who is a professional accountant) the documentation is rife with inconsistency and misleading information. Expenses are unclear and individual salaries are not listed.  We do not know how much the director makes for example. With nearly $400,00 in “salaries and wages” expended in 2016, the director’s salary is not itemized. There are also “Compensation of current officers, directors, trustees and key employees” at $70,000 – but it was disclosed publicly that a board member is an unpaid position. The key word there is “KEY employees.” That is probably a way to funnel additional funds to “KEY” people.

No wonder the CHHOP Board President recently resigned and wants nothing to do with the organization. We are told that he was concerned about the plans to move and the way the shelter has been run the last couple of years. He had enough. We don’t blame him.


CHOP 990


Only the Mayor and Common Council Can Make This Happen

We have outlined the main issues surrounding the proposed move of the homeless shelter to Washington Street in Peekskill. These facts are now in the public eye and also known to the city government that must vote to allow this to happen. If it was anyone else, a business or organization not controlled by the Democratic Party – they would have NO CHANCE.

CHHOP is run and controlled by the Peekskill Democrats. Their people make their living by working there, they provide jobs for their own there, they register residents and gain votes there. The Democratic Party leaders will tell the sitting council members what to do, how to vote and what to say – just as they always do.

But, there are a few flies in the ointment this time around…

There are competing petitions on whether the shelter should be allowed to relocate to Washington Street and those against are 10 times more in number than those who support the move.

Both Mayor Rainey and Democratic Socialist councilmember Agudelo SIGNED the petition IN FAVOR of the move! This is totally out of line. As the elected officials who will be deciding the issue, they should be objective about the vote. This should cause them to recuse themselves from the vote. It would be improper and unethical for them to vote.

One brave council member, Patty Riley, has made it clear she is not in favor of this move. From what we are told, Riley grew up in the very residential area surrounding the proposed shelter. She knows from personal experience how this relocation is not only wrong, but dangerous. There may be one or two others privately against but are finding themselves pressured by the party.

The surrounding neighborhoods are up in arms and organized to fight. This is not a political fight so the opposition is comprised of residents of all stripes, no matter what the category measured. They are growing by the day and will be mobilized in 2019 to vote out anyone who votes in favor of the zoning changes required for the move – and that is something that will concern the Democratic leaders. They know next year’s election is not far off and the long timeframe of the zoning process may overlap the election – the perfect storm.

CHHOP keeps finding ways to anger the residents. Their latest ‘move’ was to take residents’ comments out of context and send out a flyer falsely implying the residents who spoke against the shelter relocation are actually in support! When residents attended the September 12th Council Meeting and spoke against the shelter relocation, they ALL began their remarks as not being against the concept and existence of a shelter to help people but that it just doesn’t belong in a residential area. CHHOPs political handlers then used those quotes in a flyer designed to falsely show the shelter really has neighborhood support! They conveniently left out the part of the statement that clearly showed their opposition. Not only did they cherry pick the statements, they included the resident’s name in the flyer. This was very underhanded and backfired big time.

The residents against the relocation have hired a very experienced legal team to fight the move in court if need be. We are told they are experts in land use law and feel confident that too many laws and regulations will be ignored if the process goes forward. CHHOP and The Peekskill Democrats have a huge fight on their hands if they go forward.

What Needs to Happens Next?

The grassroots and organic unity of the neighborhoods against the shelter move must not slow down or ease up. Spread the word and spread the outreach throughout the city. Don’t think people who do not live in the immediate area will not be concerned. Many do not know that a homeless shelter even existed in Peekskill in the first place (we know this from many comments we received since our initial post about the shelter). They will be concerned for their children and the overall safety of the city. They will surely understand the hit that their property values will take – it will happen city-wide. The negative publicity has already had an effect. The Mayor showing public support for the shelter has people questioning the city’s direction and focus.

Many feel confident that the community can successfully fight this move. The people leading the fight are intelligent and are sticking to the facts and not making the opposition personal towards anyone. There is no political focus by any party when it comes to the opposition. Key research and outreach is being conducted that has brought information to light that was previously unknown.

CHHOP and the Democratic Party made a serious blunder. They should have approached the process honorably and honestly as everyone else is required to do. They should have backed down when the truth came out about not really having to move and the neighborhood concerns. Instead, they doubled down and began campaigns of misinformation, lies and trickery – all have been exposed and only served to escalate the opposition.

The questions we have been asking ourselves at InsidePEEK are: Why would these people go so far as to institute such extreme tactics to preserve this move to Washington Street? What are we missing? It would be easy to just find a more suitable location – or just stay where they are. People have told them they would help. The community doesn’t want or need this fight. There must be much more money involved than we even realize. Sooner or later we will find out.

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