[UPDATED: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at 5:45pm] Committee for 4th Avenue has indicated that the petition does not state overcrowding at P.S. 124 as a concern but rather notes with the limited number of parents able to assist the school’s P.T.A., “a large influx of high needs children will further strain the school’s resources.”
PARK SLOPE – A group of neighbors living near two 4th Avenue buildings slated to become homeless shelters launched a petition opposing the city’s plans for the facilities just before the Memorial Day weekend.
On May 22, Committee for 4th Avenue released the petition addressed to Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Brad Lander on change.org. As of Tuesday, the group has collected nearly 700 signatures online as well as an additional 100+ in a paper petition.
“We support the city’s efforts to house the homeless, but we believe that locating two large buildings for the homeless on two adjacent blocks is not fair to our community,” the change.org page reads. “By means of this petition, we would like to voice our opposition to the shelters as they are currently planned,” it continues, adding that the community is willing to welcome a facility of “a reasonable size” so long as the city provides “appropriate information” and addresses the community’s concerns.
The shelters are part of Mayor de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City” initiative to close the cluster sites and commercial hotels across the city that currently house the homeless and replace them with 90 new facilities. The plan aims to place homeless New Yorkers closer to their communities and distribute the facilities more equitably.
Opening this fall, the two 4th Avenue facilities will be operated by WIN. 535 4th Avenue (in Community Board 6) will provide 148 units for homeless families while 555 4th Avenue (in Community Board 7) will provide 105 units for homeless families as well as 26 units of affordable housing. The two buildings were originally being developed by Adam American and Slate Property Group as market-rate apartments.
The Committee for 4th Avenue argues that situating more than 250 shelter units in two buildings across from one another “is concentration rather than diversity” and notes that temporarily housing families at the shelters for one year, per DHS standards, will “negatively affect the sense of community.”
According to Council Member Lander’s office, the average stay for a family in a NYC DHS shelter is 15 months and a time limit is not set for families. Each family works with housing placement staff in finding a permanent home.
The Committee for 4th Avenue states that the neighborhood has already shouldered its share of “the city’s social and environmental problems,” namely the Gowanus Canal Superfund site, a NYC Department of Sanitation garage (127 2nd Avenue), the Gowanus Parole Center (15 2nd Avenue), the Hamilton Avenue Marine Transfer Station (500 Hamilton Avenue), the DOT Hamilton Avenue Asphalt Plant (448 Hamilton Avenue), and the Gowanus Expressway.
The petition includes concerns about the city’s failure to transform 4th Avenue into a “flourishing residential neighborhood,” noting the area’s lack of a supermarket, restaurants, and other commercial development; overcrowding at the already “struggling” P.S. 124, adjacent to 535 4th Avenue; and the city paying market-rate rents for the shelter units. The price the city is paying for the units was not disclosed at a May 1st meeting about the shelters and will not be available until the contracts are released.
Shortly after posting the petition online, Committee for 4th Avenue member Shruti Kapoor—who founded an organization that advocates against domestic violence—was criticized for being part of a group opposing shelters for homeless women and families. Kapoor declined to comment to Bklyner. WIN CEO and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has also faced criticism for having opposed a shelter in her own Chelsea neighborhood back in 2011.
A representative from Committee for 4th Avenue said that Kapoor was “demonized” in reports, countering that she did not write the petition and only posted it online. Other members of the Committee for 4th Avenue composed the document. “We merely argue that the shelters planned for 535 and 555 4th Avenue should be scaled down and that shelters should be spread more widely across CB6 and the Borough, not concentrated on two adjacent blocks, and that the city should not be bailing out some of the largest developers at exorbitant expense,” the representative said in an email.
The group plans to deliver copies of its petition to the mayor’s office and to the Department of Homeless Services in the coming days. The Committee for 4th Avenue has requested a meeting with Council Member Lander where the group will provide a copy of the petition to him as well.
As promised following the heated May 1st meeting, Council Member Lander’s office has compiled an FAQ on the 535 and 555 4th Avenue facilities which was posted online May 28.
“My family and I live around the corner from these shelters (we’re on 13th Street, between 4th & 5th Avenues),” the Council Member notes at the start of the document. “We care about what happens here, just like you and your families do. So while I understand there’s anger at me, and suspicion of my motives (it’s a time of very low trust in government, that’s for certain), I promise that I’m approaching this as a neighbor, just like you. We all want to make sure our neighborhood is safe and welcoming, with locally-owned small businesses and great schools, reflective of our shared values, a wonderful place for our families to thrive. I pledge to keep working hard toward those goals.”
A separate group, 4th Ave Matters (FAM), was formed following last month’s meeting to demand information from the city, WIN, and Council Member Lander about the shelters including examples of other successful WIN projects of similar scale; the amount the city is paying the developers; and why the city is “bailing out” two developers who have multiple DOB violations.
Brooklyn Community Board 6 is working on coordinating a follow up meeting with the Department of Homeless Services, WIN, and Council Member Lander. Brooklyn Community Board 7 is also working to schedule a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss 555 4th Avenue, according to CB7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer.
The city’s contract with the developers will be made available for review prior to the shelters opening on 4th Avenue. A contract public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, June 27 at 10am (22 Reade Street, Manhattan) where the community can provide testimony on the proposed contract for the two facilities.