Greenpoint homeless shelter angers neighbors

Community Board 1 charges city sneaked facility in without notification

November 7, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
North Brooklyn is being overburdened with too many homeless shelters, Assemblymember Joseph Lentol charged. He is raising objections to the opening of a new shelter in Greenpoint. Photo courtesy Lentol’s office
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The opening of a shelter for homeless families in Greenpoint is raising the ire of neighborhood residents who charged that the de Blasio Administration sneaked in the facility in the dead of night behind the backs of community officials.

The sudden opening of a homeless shelter at 58-66 Clay St. is also giving rise to concerns that Greenpoint and other North Brooklyn neighborhoods are saturated with such facilities.

The city will start moving families into the shelter next week, officials said.

Community Board 1 Chairperson Dealice Fuller fired off a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Nov. 6 demanding that the city close the Clay Street site immediately and hold a public hearing. “Families were placed without prior notification or consultation with the board,” Fuller wrote.

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Fuller said that the community board, which represents the interests of residents of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and other North Brooklyn neighborhoods, does not have an objection per se to housing the homeless. “The homeless in our community must be placed in decent standard housing. However, these shelters must be carefully woven into communities and not smuggled in by dead of night,” the chairperson said.

But Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) charged that North Brooklyn already does its fair share of housing the homeless and that the city’s Department of Homeless Services should be looking at other neighborhoods when it comes to the placement of such facilities. “Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load,” Lentol asserted.

Lentol’s district has four homeless shelters. The Clay Street site will be the fifth.

On the same day Community Board 1 wrote to de Blasio, Lentol sent a letter to Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor calling on the city to distribute homeless shelters more evenly throughout New York to avoid unfairly targeting one area.

The assemblymember also requested that the city make a determination of whether or not Brooklyn, as well as Community Board 1, where the Clay Street site is located, is in accordance with the “Fair Share” criteria established in the 1989 City Charter. Under “Fair Share,” the city is supposed to avoid cramming homeless shelters and other community facilities into the same neighborhoods.

“For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden,” Lentol said.

Besides, said Lentol, there was already an existing homeless shelter on the same Clay Street block. The shelter located at 146 Clay St., houses men, including some who are monitored by criminal justice agencies, Lentol said. “The safety of my constituents is of my utmost concern, and along the same lines I am seriously concerned about the neighboring shelter at 146 Clay St.,” he wrote in his letter to Taylor.

The Dept. of Homeless Services issued a statement to the Brooklyn Eagle in response to the concerns raise about the new shelter.

“DHS faces real challenges to house our most vulnerable populations.  As such, we must look at every viable site across the city to ensure our clients are stably housed,” the statement read.

The Clay Street site, which will house 91 families when fully operational, is run by Homelife Services, Inc., a non-profit group. The shelter will provide on-site social services as well as re-housing services to families, Taylor wrote in a Nov. 5 letter to Lentol.

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