Why Exactly Is The New 3rd Avenue Shelter Half As Expensive As Those On 4th?

GOWANUS – Officials at a lightly attended Wednesday night meeting about the new homeless shelter at 399 3rd Avenue cited a city rule preventing them from discussing ongoing procurement negotiations in order to dismiss questions about the cost disparity between the 3rd Ave shelter, operated by Praxis Housing Initiatives, and the two shelters at 535 & 555 4th Ave run by WIN (Women In Need).

Gowanus Adult Family Shelter will open at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 6th Street in Fall of 2019 in what was planned as a hotel. (Liena Zagare/Bklyner)

The non-answer was given by Matt Borden, the assistant commissioner for government affairs at the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), in response to a question by community activist Dan Price. Borden declined to comment when Bklyner asked him about the rule after the meeting. DHS did not provide a specific rule supporting the claim when asked.

The 3rd Ave shelter, which will house 58 adult families experiencing homelessness, has a much lower cost figure than those on 4th Ave. The per-unit price on 3rd Ave is about $5,100, which is about half the cost of the 4th Ave shelters, though speakers at the hearing noted that the shelters would be providing different types of services, for different populations.

The meeting took place at Park Slope’s MS 51 at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (September 4), and attendance was notably light in comparison to the meetings regarding the 4th Ave shelters. Some audience members questioned whether this was intentional, as the meeting time had been rescheduled from the previous day and the city is coming off of a holiday weekend.

The meeting was set up by Brooklyn Community Board 6, and led by City Council Member Brad Lander, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, and officials from DHS and Praxis. The shelter is scheduled to open this fall at the site of what was originally developed to be the Hotel LYN.

Generally, attendees at the meeting praised Praxis for conducting a transparent and sensitive process. “It’s a big difference from Christine Quinn,” said meeting attendee, Dan Vito, in a question to the assembled panel referencing the raucous Community Board 7 meeting in July featuring Women in Need’s Quinn and members of the community engaged in less-than-cordial dialogue about the 4th Avenue facilities.

As a means of building a bridge, Praxis officials invited members of the community on tours of both the 3rd Ave site and of Praxis’s shelter on the Upper West Side, which provides similar services as would be provided at 3rd Ave.

“We are glad DHS and Praxis came out and started a dialogue with our community and expect that dialogue to continue,” said Michael Racioppo, District Manager for CB6, in a statement to Bklyner.

The siting of shelters in the Park Slope area has drawn a polarized reception in the neighborhood. Skeptics at the hearing noted that three shelters have now been sited in the area in quick succession, but officials said that the area was still not shouldering its fair share of the burden laid out in the de Blasio administration’s Turning the Tide report.

“We have a moral and a legal obligation to provide a safe place to sleep every night for every New Yorker that is homeless,” Council Member Lander said. He noted the heavy disparity in burden that low-income neighborhoods bear in siting shelters, and that Park Slope had still not met its fair share of the burden.

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Ben Brachfeld

Ben Brachfeld

Ben Brachfeld is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn. His work has also appeared in Gotham Gazette, City & State, and Gothamist. Reach out to him via email at benbrachfeld@bklyner.com, or on Twitter @benbrachfeld.


  1. “Open and transparent” would be holding a Townhall/Community Forum BEFORE a shelter is a Done Deal.
    And what exactly determines what is a neighborhood’s “fair share” of shelters??

  2. This is the second time that Brad Lander has announced a community meeting about shelters and his plan to bail out developers the day before a holiday weekend, not included the announcement in his email blast and otherwise tried to hide it from the community.

    Both of these meetings were about “shelters” that are above-market bailouts for developers with failed projects.

    Brad used to be a good guy. When did he turn into such a shill for sleazy developers?

  3. “Fair Share” in the Mayor’s plan means providing sufficient beds in the community districts in order to accommodate the number of homeless originating from the community district(last declared address). Sunset Park currently has twice the number of beds as Sunset Park residents who have been through DHS Intake asking to be provided shelter (Please correct me if I’m wrong).

    The process will be to have residents relocated to their home districts in newly built permanent shelters where they will be near supportive family, friends and institutions and can more readily graduate to their own abode. The excess beds in hotels and leased apartments will be vacated, those sites discontinued. Sounds good to me.

    Achieving ninety permanent sites citywide with just the right number of local but formally homeless residents should be interesting. Watch it become the prime issue in the 2021 City Council elections. The City has 59 community districts but at my last count only 44 has any shelter beds. That’s where “Share” comes in.

    The Mayor was shamed into siting family shelters in his home area on the Brien Lahrer radio program last May. Amazing how he forgot, especially after the homeless number went from 50K to 60 K without his notice. He must of had bigger things on his mind.

  4. Lander announced the date and time of this meeting in an email to his constituents on August 20th, so I’m not sure where people get the idea that he announced it the day before…that’s just not true. The quote from the email:

    “There will be a public meeting on Wednesday, September 4th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM [location coming soon] hosted by Community Board 6 with representatives from the Department of Homeless Services and Praxis. “

  5. @VB, that email must have been sent to a selective list. Like John, I never got it.

    I did get Brad’s illegal email asking me to buy Ady Barkan’s book (and his apology and acknowledgement that the original email was against the law).

    It is absolutely sleezy to send announcements like this to selective members of the community. Brad used to be an honest, upstanding guy, but something happened to lead him down the path of illegally using his official email list to shill for his non-profit, using homeless services dollars to bail out failed real estate projects and trying to hid public meetings from the community.

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