“Let our no’s be no’s.” Recovery Fund Withdrawal Final
by Robert Lynch, March 30, 2023
A most confusing back-and-forth funding saga ended this Tuesday. And it ended with Newfield’s Second Wind Cottages firmly—and finally—withdrawing its application for $510,000 in Tompkins County Community Recovery Funds, money it had earlier requested to expand its tiny-house encampment for the homeless, the agency bowing to community opposition.
By dropping out of the Recovery Fund sweepstakes permanently, Second Wind leaves more than a half-Million Dollars a legislative committee had earlier set aside for its benefit free to be assigned to other funding applicants. Those others include, potentially, the Enfield Community Council and a pair of Enfield-sponsored governmental projects. County legislator Randy Brown has said he’ll promote the Enfield applications at a key meeting of the Recovery Fund Advisory Committee April third.
“Until we can grow together with our neighbors in Newfield, we have decided to withdraw our application and postpone any plans to expand our cottage community in Newfield,” Second Wind posted in a four-paragraph statement on its Facebook page Tuesday.
Second Wind had attempted to withdraw its revised plan to construct 12 new self-contained “cottages” one week earlier. But after the agency’s Executive Director, David Shapiro, announced the agency’s surprising reversal of plans March 21st, County legislator Anne Koreman declined to pull from the evening’s agenda a resolution to advance Second Wind’s project toward its award, and the Legislature subsequently approved Koreman’s measure, eight votes to six.
As the Legislature deliberated the Koreman resolution—which kept the project’s funding prospects alive, but propelled it to an environmental review carrying an uncertain outcome—Shapiro responded that he’d later return to Second Wind’s Board of Directors and let them decide whether to reverse the withdrawal plans he’d carried to County lawmakers that night at the Board’s request. Tuesday’s announcement confirmed that the agency’s earlier-announced pullout stands firm.
Upbeat, yet sober, and holding out hope for the future, Second Wind’s statement Tuesday also carried a bit of a sting. It acknowledged the neighborhood opposition to expansion of the current 18-unit encampment encircling Carmen Guidi’s Route 13 body shop, and that the opposition had killed its plans. That opposition had prompted the Newfield Town Board last month to enact a one-year moratorium on new “campgrounds” in the Town, an action taken in response to Second Wind’s initial proposal that would, instead, have built as many as 20 campsite-type shelters with the Recovery Fund subsidy.
“Unfortunately, the stigma associated with homelessness and addiction still resonates throughout our communities,” Second Wind’s statement complained, citing community resistance as grounds for reversing course in its pursuit of the Recovery Fund award.
“Coming to this decision was difficult, but also is value driven,” the agency’s statement continued. “Our organization and program model places significant value on being good neighbors and friends to people of all walks of life. Right now, some of our neighbors walking near us aren’t walking with us so we will lean on the proverb “let our yes’s be yes’s and our no’s be no’s” and let the voices that continue speaking ill will about our guys represent themselves independently without our voices contributing to the negativity.”
While Second Wind now stands permanently out of the running for a slice of the $6.5 Million County-administered Community Recovery Fund, the future expansion of the cottages in Newfield remains a possibility.
Director Shapiro made an unplanned zoom visit to a routine work session of the Newfield Town Board two days after Second Wind’s prospects flip-flopped before the County Legislature.
“We can do this together,” Shapiro told the Town Board March 23rd, in words carrying a message of conciliation and cooperation regarding the encampment’s future growth.
“It’s a beautiful site,” Shapiro said of Guidi’s property, where the present 18 cottages are scattered about. “I wouldn’t want to do anything to taint that for you guys,” he said, referring to Newfield’s leaders and its residents.
And referring to the Second Wind Board of Directors, which apparently at the time of Thursday’s meeting had not yet met, Shapiro added, “They didn’t want to fight with anybody.”
Though additional tiny houses will not likely sprout in Guidi’s field this year, they might do so later. After he spoke on the zoom screen Thursday, Shapiro left an enigmatic message in the meeting’s chat box.
“12 more in 2024. Or 6 in 2024 in 2024 and a slower build,” Shapiro’s chat message stated. It could be interpreted as a starting point for a compromise construction plan to be negotiated with the Town in the future.
“Things don’t always come at the right times,” Newfield Supervisor Michael Allinger said in the meeting following Shapiro’s remarks that evening. Allinger spoke little else of Second Wind that night. Other Newfield Town Board members also kept comments brief.
“It’s now in Second Wind’s court,” Councilperson Christine Laughlin observed.
Councilperson Heather McCarty suggested a future community meeting at the Town Hall to bring Second Wind’s officials together with Newfield residents.
In early-February, the Newfield Town Board held a Public Hearing concerning the campground moratorium that it enacted later that night. But although a few dozen Newfield residents attended that hearing, not a single Second Wind representative was in the room.
The Second Wind withdrawal leaves other Community Recovery Fund applicants—including the Town of Enfield and three of its non-profit agencies—with an opportunity. Yet it’s an opportunity skating on thin ice. When the Recovery Fund’s Advisory Committee in December pared down a list of 212 applicants to about 55 to which it assigned funding, and also trimmed a total monetary ask of $32 Million to match the resources available, that committee left the ECC’s $206,000 request only about five applicants under the cutoff line.
As a result, one could assume the Community Council’s proposal, that would append a mental health services wing onto its community center, could fare well when the Advisory Committee next meets April third to recommend reapportionment of the dollars once earmarked for Second Wind.
Also-run applicants likewise bubbling-under the committee’s earlier-set funding line include the Khuba International minority farming cooperative initiative and a request by Unity House to cover operational expenses in serving those with developmental disabilities. Khuba and Unity House each asked the County for more than $1 Million. But each would accept far less.
Newfield-Enfield legislator Randy Brown has told Enfield officials he’ll push hard for funding Enfield-based applicants with any moneys Second Wind’s departure frees up. Brown has repeatedly complained that the Town of Enfield and its agencies were denied even one dime of Community Recovery funds when downtown lawmakers parceled them out last December,
In addition to the Community Council request, Brown has also highlighted an earlier-denied application by Enfield Town Government to fund replacement communications radios for the Highway Department, as well as a $97,000 catch-all “Revitalization of Municipal Buildings” package that would include, in part, replacing the roof over the Enfield Town Clerk’s office.
“I want to be very clear that if (Second Wind’s withdrawal) is what happens, and there’s $510,000, it’s not going to automatically go to Enfield and Newfield,” the Town of Ithaca’s Amanda Champion famously cautioned the County Legislature March 21, as it pondered how it might best redirect Second Wind’s subsidy should the agency exit the funding sweepstakes, as it now has done.
Next Monday’s Advisory Committee meeting could prove pivotal. Its Chair Dan Klein—who has attempted repeatedly to confine control of the funding process in a way that some say grants too much power to too few people—foresees Monday’s task as recommending reallocation to previously-unsuccessful applicants, but inviting no one else to sneak in.
“We are not seeking new applications at this time,” Klein told The Ithaca Voice Tuesday. And once again, Klein discouraged applicant buttonholing of legislators.
“Before the awards were made in December, we had requested of applicants to not lobby the Legislature,” Klein told The Voice. (Yet they did.) “Personally, I still feel that way, and I hope the applicants allow the Legislature to do its work without trying to influence our decisions with lobbying.”
Of course, that December process left the Town of Enfield, and its Community Council, Food Pantry, and Fire Company with absolutely nothing to show for their efforts.
“We sure know our community would benefit from more tiny home communities and affordable permanent supportive housing for homeless men, women and/or families,” Tuesday’s Second Wind statement concluded, as the agency acknowledged its latest setback, yet looked forward to, as it stated, “new opportunities to expand,” and in a way that “our neighbors see us for how we all hope to be seen – worthy of love and belonging.”
“Peace to all of you and praying for safety for all those living unhoused and unsafe” the organization’s statement concluded.
Second Wind’s efforts continue. So, too, do Enfield’s