Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new homeless initiative to add 90 homeless shelters, equitably dispersed throughout the city, is already facing pushback from community members and officials.
The90 new shelters are part of the promise to eliminate 360 problematic cluster housing sites and commercial hotel shelters.Some failing homeless facilities will be converted into new shelters where appropriate, a spokesperson for the mayor confirmed to Metro.
The intent of the plan is for more communities to take care of their own homeless, the rep said.
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Community members are concernedthe proposed shelters will not alleviate the issues that clusters and hotelspresenttheir neighborhoods, such as overburdeningonschools and hospitals. They worry that they are being left out of the decision-making process when they could propose better sites, and that the “fair share” of homeless people allotted to their districts won’t actually be fair.
Community Board 13 District Manager Eddie Mark said that he recognizes the obligation for Coney Island to take their fair share of homeless, yet the city’s process forbuilding a shelter at a Sandy-damaged site has not been especially considerate of the community’s needs and concerns.
Mark noted that there are already 15 public housing buildings where residents are living on the brink of homelessness, and that veterans housing is going up in the neighborhood, making a new homeless shelter another potential burden on the progress of their struggling community. Mark said that the city has also not addressed the safety concerns of developing at a site where toxic substances and chemicals such as mercury were known to have scattered in the storm.
“We feel we are just a dumping ground,” Mark said. “Why are they giving it to us? Given the composition and the density of low income people already here – it’s not appropriate.”
The city released the locations of one new and three proposed shelters to Metro Wednesday. One of them, 480 East 185th Street in the Belmont section of the Bronx, recently opened. Permits, construction and community outreach are in progress for the other three, which includes two in Crown Heights, at 265 Rogers Ave., and 1173 Bergen St., as well as 174 Prospect Place in Prospect Heights.
Community Board 8 in Brooklyn is holding an informational meeting at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the proposed homeless shelter at 1173 Bergen Street intended for 100 single men. Neighbors of the building, which is already a facility serving men with addictions, have raised concerns to the board.
Members of Elmhurst United in Queens said they have doubtsthe new plan will make a difference for community’s urgent concerns. The group has expressed concerns about the Pan Am and Holiday Inn in Queens being used as homeless housing since 2014.
“We have warehouses for the homeless here without the right services for them,” Elmhurst United founding member Phil Wongsaid.“I can see the Pan Am from my window and I can see and smell the drug use. Where there are users, there are dealers."
Wong said the Elmhurst Hospital,their only hospital, is overwhelmed, and that the schools where his own children go are so packed that they have to put chairs and desks in the gym.
“Suddenly you have dozens of kids dropping into our district. We don’t magically have vacant seats to accommodate these kids.”