Niagara Gazette — A state supreme court justice has issued a temporary restraining order suspending a city directive that barred a Ferry Avenue gospel mission from housing homeless guests overnight.
State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso issued the order after attorneys representing the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission on Friday filed a petition on behalf of the shelter.
On April 8, the city’s code enforcement office presented the shelter’s operators with a cease-and-desist order after determining that zoning ordinances in the neighborhood did not allow the facility to accommodate homeless guests overnight. At the time, the operators were informed of their right to apply for a change of use variance through the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
NGRM Board President David Curtin indicated that the board “could not wait the six to eight weeks for a zoning board of appeals decision.”
“We did not enter into the decision to bring this court proceeding lightly; however, not being able to shelter overnight guests put us in an untenable position,” said NGRM Board President David Curtin said in a statement issued by the organization.
The Niagara Rescue Gospel Mission, located at 1023 Ferry Ave., has been the subject of debate for several weeks as some members of the Memorial Park Block Club in the neighborhood have contended that it has been operating outside of the city’s zoning laws for years while contributing to various quality-of-life concerns in the area.
Shelter operators have consistently contended that the block club members’ concerns are unfounded, arguing that their work with homeless males and individuals dealing with substance abuse problems has been a benefit to the neighborhood. They also maintain that the city granted them permission to house homeless males overnight before they opened for business back in 2010.
The mission’s attorneys have asked the court for declaratory relief and a preliminary injunction extending the stay on the city’s enforcement actions. They said the matter is scheduled for further proceedings before Caruso on May 14.