The city is considering alternative sites to place a homeless shelter for adult men in Brighton Beach, after a proposed site on Neptune Avenue drew significant opposition from local residents.
“After receiving requests from community representatives to explore alternate locations and plans, NYC DSS-DHS is actively looking for alternate sites and plans to consider,” a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Homeless Services said in a statement to Brooklyn Paper. “As a result, if NYC DSS-DHS identifies an alternative site in the community (same community district) that is viable to provide shelter to the men who would have resided at 100 Neptune Avenue, then the City will change their plans and will use that location instead.”
The Neptune Avenue site was selected last year by the Department of Homeless Services to house 170 beds for adult, single men, and is one of the 90 community-based shelters that the city aims to build by the end of the year to combat homelessness. But area residents immediately blasted into high gear to oppose the project, to the point that more than 10 people were kicked out of a community meeting to discuss it back in January.
Some residents contended that the site’s history as an auto body shop and a garage, and potential resultant ground pollutants, meant that the city should conduct environmental remediation before utilizing the space as a shelter, a position shared by then-Councilmember Chaim Deutsch and the local community board, CB13. The city agreed to conduct an environmental impact statement for the site but a representative for DHS did not respond to an inquiry on whether that is still taking place.
In March, the original intended operator of the shelter, CORE, was dropped after objections by the owners of the lot.
While CB13 chair Lucy Acevedo could not be reached for comment by press time, District Manager Eddie Mark said that since the board hasn’t met since June, it hasn’t crystallized a position on whether it supports the move by the city to consider alternatives.
The site also lies near neighboring Community District 15 — and that community board believes it is entitled to a meeting with city officials, says CB15 member and Manhattan Beach Community Group President Judy Baron.
Baron told Brooklyn Paper that siting the shelter at 100 Neptune would be “irresponsible,” but she is holding her breath until the city comes back with alternatives.
“I hope they find another location,” she said. “I think this is the world’s worst place to put it.”
The city has not yet shared the potential alternative sites it is considering with her or other civic leaders, Baron said. DHS did not respond when asked by Brooklyn Paper to share the list.
The proposed shelter comes as the number of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness reaches record heights due to COVID-19, according to advocates. Locals have reported an increase in homelessness around Coney Island and Brighton Beach, where unsheltered people are often seen along Ocean Parkway and have set up encampments in Kaiser Park.
Though the new shelter does not need community approval to move forward, DHS officials have vowed to keep locals informed throughout the process.
“As part of the City’s ongoing commitment to continued engagement with the community, we will also provide notification to the community in advance of proceeding with any alternative site, should one be identified,” the DSS-DHS spox said.