On Wednesday, Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Katherine Levine once again extended the temporary restraining order that prohibits a new homeless shelter from opening at 1173 Bergen Street in Crown Heights.
Two block associations and more than 40 Crown Heights residents argue that Crown Heights is unfairly oversaturated with 19 homeless shelters. The plaintiffs filed a petition on March 21 to halt the opening of the shelter, which was originally scheduled to open March 22.
More than 100 affidavits had been filed by neighbors and local business owners for yesterday’s hearing, demonstrating how the over-saturation of shelters negatively affects the community and describing “what it is like to live with 19 shelters within a half-mile radius,” Jennifer Catto, one of the plaintiffs, states.
The plaintiffs stress they “do not wish to criminalize the homeless,” Catto says. Many of their statements describe instances of shelter residents behaving violently, panhandling aggressively, drinking and using drugs on the streets, trespassing, and harassing locals. Neighbors are concerned that the 104 senior homeless men the new shelter would bring to the area would increase these occurrences.
“On New York between Pacific and Dean, an older man (seemingly homeless) lifted his mostly empty shopping cart into the air like a baseball bat, swinging with all of his might and knocking me to the ground. Though he did not steal anything, I was shaken and the entire side of my body where he struck me with cart was bruised for quite sometime,” one community member stated.
“One of the most disgusting memories is coming home with my very young daughter and having to step over a homeless man lying on the ground in our gate snoring loudly with his pants down around his thighs and his genitals exposed. He was gone by the time the police came,” another recalled.
“I have two young daughters, 5 and 7 years old. We are approached [by the homeless] regularly, and often I feel that it is in a hostile or aggressive, threatening manner, and it makes me fear for my daughters’ and my safety,” a third Crown Heights resident said.
“We remain committed to opening this site so that over 100 seniors can be sheltered closer to the community they called home and to working with community members to address concerns so that our clients receive a warm welcome,” Isaac McGinn, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services, tells BKLYNER.
“New York City is under court order to provide shelter for all homeless individuals in need and we remain confident that the courts will recognize, as they have for decades, our vital need for these high-quality beds—in a facility with comprehensive social and support services, rather than hotels, which are less effective for homeless New Yorkers and communities alike,” he adds.
The Bergen Street shelter is one of the first facilities in Mayor de Blasio’s plan to open 90 homeless shelters throughout the city within the next five years. DHS has announced five new shelter locations so far this year, with three of these planned to be in or near Crown Heights.
DHS insists that the opening of the Bergen Street shelter, as well as last month’s opening of a new women’s facility at Prospect Place, would enable the agency to close cluster sites and stop the use of commercial hotels to house homeless individuals in the area.
McGinn says Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods would see a reduction of 100 beds after the opening of these sites.
DHS has had to find alternate housing for the 104 men whom they intend on placing at 1173 Bergen Street, he adds.
“Our goal is to ensure this facility is seamlessly integrated into the community and that our clients receive a warm welcome,” McGinn states. “We encourage community members to join the Community Advisory Board we will set up for this site so that we can maintain an open dialogue and address any concerns as soon as they arise.”
Judge Levine extended the temporary restraining order to allow both sides to further negotiate until the next hearing which is scheduled for April 28, the Daily News reports.