DITMAS PARK/KENSINGTON – Last night at IS62 a handful of neighbors, outnumbered at least 3:1 by city officials and police, listened to an update and asked questions about the shelter for 139 men that is set to open at 570 Coney Island Avenue later this spring, at the site of the former Park Manor Home for Adults. Assemblyman Robert Carroll was in attendance and was later joined by Senator Kevin Parker, though neither spoke much.
What has changed or new information since we last reported on the project in December:
- Seems that another building has been added to expand the property and renovations are spanning across 566, 568, 570 and 572 Coney Island Avenue – from the Gyro Cafe to the deli on the corner. Total square footage of the facility is now just shy of 17,000 square feet.
- It does not look like the shelter will open in March, as was initially promised, based on progress with the construction work, but the Department of Homeless Services First Deputy Commissioner Jackie Bray said last night that they still hoped to open this spring.
- Black Veterans For Social Justice, who will operate the shelter, will be providing a shuttle service for the residents to the nearby subway stations, following a request by nearby neighborhood associations at the last meeting, though it is unclear whether that would not just be a waste of resources given that Beverley Road Q stop is less than 5 minute walk, and the Church Avenue F/G about 10 minutes away, and residents would not be required to take the shuttle.
- All food will be brought in by a truck from outside vendors, and all garbage will be taken away by the department of sanitation. This location falls under 66th Precinct and Sanitation District 12, and Community Board 12.
- Living in the shelter will be dorm style, with anywhere between 8 and 15 men to a room, and no assigned beds.
- The city will look into adding a vent for smokers in the back yard following a concern raised by the residents directly behind the shelter who will share a very narrow back yard – which will be open to use by the shelter residents and have a designated smoking area. It was not clear whether the residents would have 24/7 access to the yard to smoke.
What has not changed since we last reported on the project in December:
- This will be a shelter for 139 single men from Brooklyn.
- This will not be an intake facility – no walk-ins are expected, except when the city operates under code red (heatwaves in the summer) or code blue (really cold weather) when the shelter is open to anyone.
- There will not be any sex-offenders placed at the facility due to the fact that public elementary and middle school is just one block away. There are no restrictions on placing individuals with criminal backgrounds.
- The facility will not be able to provide on-site care for mental health or substance abuse limiting the placement of more severe cases.
- Contract with shelter is the same as the lease that the Black Veterans for Social Justice have with the Coney Group LLC, which in turn leases it from the owner of the building Halpert Holdings. It is 5 years with an option to extend for 4.
One concern neighbors kept raising was a promise that there would not be additional shelters placed in the immediate vicinity and the answer was “we cannot promise that”, even though Deputy Commissioner Bray took many sentences to say it. The City has announced about one-third of the 90 shelters it plans to open as part of Turning The Tide On Homelessness.
Officials present said they had no knowledge of the proposed hotel a few blocks down Coney Island Avenue, that neighbors speculate may be intended to provide housing to the homeless, which have swelled to record numbers under Mayor DeBlasio.
Some data from the Coalition for the Homeless, you can learn a lot more about modern-day homeless on their site:
- In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- In December 2018, there were 63,498 homeless people, including 15,485 homeless families with 22,899 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.
All in all, the focus of the meeting was to assure everyone that the homeless men at the shelter are people just like those present at the meeting and that it is upon the community to welcome them and help them.
Based on statistics shared, individuals stay in the shelters about 400 days, and Black Veterans for Social Justice seems to be an experienced and above average provider of services, successfully helping about 40% of residents to find permanent housing, where subsidies for housing were available. There were assurances that the facility will be well staffed and monitored, with lots of services and structure provided for the residents.
We had a number of questions for the Department of Homeless Services – to which we are awaiting answers and we will do a follow up once we receive those answers.