Locals worried about homelessness

July 27, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Locals worried about homelessness
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Sunset Park residents continue to worry about rising homelessness in the neighborhood.

“It’s really bad,” said business owner George Cardona. “The main thing is all the needles that are being found on our steps. It’s a serious issue. They’re on Third Avenue and 60st Street to 61st Street. It’s picking up more and more. There are other neighborhoods that aren’t seeing this.”

Cardona has also seen people setting up on the street.

“Third avenue under the highway between 60th and 61st,” he said. “If you drive under the highway where the big divider is right by Third Avenue, you’ll see it. They’ve got makeshift tents now. I’ve never seen anything like it. A couple of neighbors caught them breaking into their cars to sleep inside them. Then your car is messed up and you also have to worry about COVID spreading and it’s a tough situation.”

He has also had to deal with it personally.

Photos courtesy of George Cardona

“In front of my office, there was a lady asking for money,” he said. “I didn’t let her in my office.. She started spitting on my window. When she left, I went with cleaning supplies to clean my window. I shouldn’t have to worry about it.”

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca said, “My office is working with the Department of Homeless Services to ensure that our homeless neighbors connect with shelter and critical services. But the core issue here is that the city, state and federal government must provide emergency relief to all New Yorkers to prevent our neighbors from losing their homes in the first place.

“This is why I advocated for the city to fund critical services, like rental assistance programs during the past budget cycle. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the economic and social disparities  in our district and our city. We need to focus on finding ways to help prevent homelessness and not further criminalize it.”

In June, Community Board 7 hosted a meeting via Zoom during which participants addressed their experiences and concerns. One resident talked about the increasing number of hotels that are being used as shelters, while another pointed to incidents of public drunkenness and urination.

“We created the ad-hoc committee on homelessness with a very intentional purpose to support folks who aren’t as fortunate as us,” said CB7 Chair Cesar Zuniga at the meeting. “We see ourselves as an entity that wants to support people in that community. Our committees strive not just to pathologize this community.

“However, we are also concerned about the quality of life issues … You don’t need to deal with things by yourself.”

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