A possible homeless shelter at 2201-2227 Neptune Area and West 23rd Street for mothers and their children could be coming to Coney Island, but not everyone is happy about it.
Christine Quinn and her non-profit group, Women in Need (Win), met with Community Board 13, residents, leading community groups and local elected politicians at a public meeting Thursday night at P.S. 329. The hot-button topic of the night was the construction of the purpose-built shelter with 180 units of Tier II shelter and a 2,500-square foot community space.
The atmosphere was charged: several residents spoke out on feelings of Coney Island already being overburdened with problems. The area is in no position to support a homeless shelter, locals complained. Plus, one resident said, the community is very upset because the plan is being pushed through without their knowledge.
Quinn reassured the crowd that Win will undoubtedly do the right thing for Coney Island.
“I would understand if you didn’t believe when I say every need our client has, and those children have, will be taken care of in that shelter, and not be a burden on the neighborhood,” explained Quinn, who serves as WIN’s executive director.
“I understand because you’ve been burned by other groups and the government at different times,” she added, “But, I give you my word, and rest assured two or three or whatever years from now, if this goes forward, you will see that word lived up to, that we will only operate a top-grade facility that moves people out when they’re ready to live independently.”
Moreover, the proposed building site is on the former grounds of a dye factory which resided there for approximately six decades, according to a local politician. It’s raising possible health and safety concerns for the prospective women and children that would live there because of potential toxic chemicals that may surface during construction.
“This site used to host a dye factory, and there is some pretty bad stuff down there that has never been remediated for many decades,” Councilman Mark Treyger told the people in attendance. “And I did raise it in conversations with the administration. They informed that this is an ‘as of right project’ that doesn’t require an environmental impact study.”
Treyger then went on to adamantly demand Mayor Bill de Blasio has an environmental impact study done at the site.
Quinn expanded on the questionable environmental aspects of the project, saying, “We have been informed that based on this site, we have to go on a series of reviews with the Department of Buildings, and depending what they say, that could trigger a full environmental assessment. But I make a commitment to you, that we’ll share that information, and we will not allow our developer to put a shovel in the ground until everything on that site that has been identified has been taken care of. We won’t put women and children in harm’s way.”
The proposed Neptune Avenue shelter does have some supporters within the community. At the meeting, they said they could have used a Win-hosted shelter in Coney Island during their desperate time of need.
“As someone who is from Coney Island and was a proud resident for 31 years, has a young child that still attends school in Coney Island and has a partner that works in Coney Island, I can tell you that having a homeless family shelter in the area would have been beneficial to my family when we were forced to seek shelter,” Ms. Barrow, a 31-year-old homeless mother of one, said.
“With no shelter in the area we were forced to move to a Win shelter in Harlem and now my son has to commute over three hours every day to get to and from school,” she continued. “He is a great student and loves his school, which is why we decided not to take him out and force more changes on him than he already has gone through.”
Almost 60,000 New Yorkers – 23,576 of whom are children – are currently living in homeless shelters across New York City. Homelessness in the city has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, reports the Coalition for the Homeless. The number of New Yorkers in city shelters is 87 percent higher than it was ten years ago, the Coalition says.