With very short notice, neighbors and community members are encouraged to attend an informational meeting tomorrow, Saturday, March 4 at 11am at 1173 Bergen Street (between Brooklyn and New York Avenues) in Crown Heights addressing a homeless shelter proposed to open on the site on March 15.
In response to mixed reactions the proposed shelter has raised throughout the community, Assembly Member Diana C. Richardson (District 43) sent out a notice on Friday morning urging community members to share their questions and concerns at the public forum.
Representatives from the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the New York City Department of Social Services, Core Services, the New York Police Department, and local elected officials will be at the meeting to address the public’s concerns and answer questions.
Richardson included a letter she wrote to Mayor De Blasio dated February 27 detailing her frustrations in dealing with the Department of Homeless Services regarding the proposed shelter which will house 100 homeless single men over the age of 50.
An excerpt of Richardson’s letter states:
“Unfortunately, the Department of Homeless Services decision to hold a community informational meeting in regards to the 1173 Bergen Street shelter on Saturday, March 4, 2017 is not timely and does not provide for the necessary community input. The set date will not give community leaders and organizations substantial time to disseminate information on a project that has drawn mixed reactions from the outset. In addition, advancement of this project will ultimately provide housing for underserved individuals who require it, but it is imperative that community members are granted the right to information in an efficient manner, so that they can do their due diligence after receipt of such information.
The inadequate release of information surrounding this shelter dates back to the first week of August, during the summer of 2016, where I received several constituent calls expressing concern about rumored plans to transform 1173 Bergen Street into a shelter. My office reached out to the Department of Homeless Services to inquire about the status of this property, and was later informed that there would be no shelter at this site. Subsequently, I informed my constituents of such update.
On February 16, 2017, my office received a call from the Department of Homeless Services with updates informing them that the city would be in fact be moving forward with the shelter at the aforementioned location. During this time, we expressed that a 30 day notification was not enough time to inform the community. Unfortunately, in this case, the public will only get a few days to have this information communicated to them, leaving community residents on the ground feeling excluded and disrespected.”
Saturday’s meeting comes on the heels of the Mayor’s announcement Tuesday, February 28, of a plan to eliminate the use of 360 cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities to house the homeless and replace them with 90 new shelter facilities throughout the city.
The City’s 114-page plan, entitled “Turning the Tide on Homelessness,” aims to reduce the footprint of New York City’s homeless shelter system as well as the number of New Yorkers who rely on the system. The new plan will be borough-based, keeping homeless New Yorkers closer to their communities and support services such as schools, jobs, places of worship, etc.
The shelter strategy includes eliminating the use of 276 cluster apartments by the end of 2021 and 84 commercial hotel facilities by 2023 to house homeless New Yorkers. The plan also includes opening approximately 20 new shelters annually for the next five years and renovating and expanding existing facilities.
The administration pledges to provide at least 30 days’ notice to surrounding communities prior to opening a new shelter and maintain engagement throughout the process. Community advisory boards will also be established after sites are opened.
The administration also pledges to notify communities when commercial hotel rooms are rented to homeless individuals or families. This is a new step for the administration, as the use of commercial hotels to house the homeless has not always been transparent.
In 2016, neighbors questioned whether what was slated to be a Howard Johnson’s Hotel at 235 24th Street (near 4th Avenue) was instead being used as a housing facility for the homeless.
The Mayor’s plan states that the neighborhoods that are currently home to most of the cluster sites, which are mainly concentrated in Central Brooklyn and the Bronx, should expect new high-quality shelters to open in their communities as the City closes the cluster sites in these neighborhoods.
See a copy of the full “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan here.