Friday, July 8, 2011

Bronx borough president threatens to sue Bloomberg administration over fate of miliary base

Wednesday, July 6th 2011, 4:00 AM

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. with Borough Hall in the background. For Sunday's 'Your Borough' section.   Original Filename: CHU_DIAZ05.JPG
Victor Chu for News
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. with Borough Hall in the background. For Sunday's 'Your Borough' section. Original Filename: CHU_DIAZ05.JPG

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is threatening to sue the Bloomberg administration over the fate of a Bronx military base.

The task force responsible for the soon-to-be vacant Joseph E. Muller Army Reserve Center - made up of two deputy mayors and Diaz - submitted its plan for the Wakefield base to the federal government last Thursday, Diaz said.

It calls for the Nereid Ave. center to become a 200-bed homeless shelter. Federal guidelines require Army base closures to address local needs for homeless housing.

Diaz and Bronx parents want the Muller Center to instead house National and New York State Guard units currently stationed at the Kingsbridge Armory annex.

Diaz said moving the units would free up the annex for school construction. Last Friday, he blasted the deputy mayors for hijacking the task force, claiming they submitted the plan to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department without holding an official vote.

Mayoral spokesman Andrew Brent said the task force voted last November to recommend that the Muller Center become a men's shelter run by The Doe Fund, a Manhattan-based nonprofit. The task force has analyzed the site and conducted community interviews, Brent said. The mayor's office did not comment directly on the threatened suit.

But Diaz insists there was no November vote, only an informal meeting. He claims he boycotted official meetings in order to delay the decision.

"The Bloomberg administration is ignoring the clear will of the people and pretending that a vote took place last year," he said.

Diaz called last week's submission of the shelter plan "a slap in the face to the Bronx," while the Rev. Richard Gorman, chairman of Community Board 12, labeled it "a bunch of garbage."

"No one is fooled," Gorman said. "I believe we're going to end up in court, and I hope we do."

The fate of the Muller Center seemed unresolved as recently as June 22, when the task force - at Diaz's urging - held a final public hearing in Wakefield.

At the hearing, community leaders protested the shelter plan, noting that two other shelters are slated to open soon near the 55,000-square-foot Muller Center. Meanwhile, Bronx parents made their case for the construction of new schools at the Kingsbridge Armory.

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