Checking in: Stalled hotel is Sunset Park’s newest homeless shelter

Checking in: Stalled hotel is Sunset Park’s newest homeless shelter
Community News Group / Caroline Spivack

Sunset Parkers are worried that a stalled inn temporarily acting as a homeless shelter is becoming a permanent lodge for the destitute without adequate oversight.

Developers planned to open a Howard Johnson hotel on 24th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, but franchisees are still waiting on the okay from hotel-company higher-ups — and in the mean time, the city is renting out nearly all 41 rooms in the building for homeless families. But short-term housing tends to become a concrete fixture, one local leader said.

“ ‘Temporary’ has an interesting meaning in New York City,” said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. “Sometimes that means forever.”

Children’s Community Services has been running the Department of Homeless Services-funded home since mid-August, according to a building manager who expects it will operate for 6–12 months.

The city must alert locals before opening a permanent shelter — they have no obligation to do so when a temporary one opens, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t let people know, Laufer said.

“The city has had an emergency declaration since 1981 which is allowing them to place shelters in communities with minimal notice,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s such an emergency that you can’t keep the community informed.”

Locals were surprised to learn about the shelter, and many did not find out until personally going into the hotel to make inquiries, according to one area resident who said she has no problem with her new neighbors but just wants a little heads-up.

“I’m fine with it being here, but as someone in the community, I just want them to let me know what’s going on,” said Marisol Castanos, who lives directly behind the building and found out about the temporary shelter when she went to the front desk to complain about residents’ rowdy behavior.

Staff at the building began handing out letters on Aug. 29 explaining the situation to locals, according to the building manager.

Howard Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Mayor DeBlasio has vowed to reduce the use of hotels as shelters — which costs the city an average of $161 per night — but the number of homeless living in inns continues to rise. In August that number was 3,990, up from 2,656 in February, according to Department of Homeless Services data.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspiv[email protected]nglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.