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Coney may get its first homeless shelter

Coney may get its first homeless shelter
A new lease?: A Neptune Avenue building that once housed city hospital offices may become the Coney Island’s first homeless shelter.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

The People’s Playground may be getting a few new neighbors.

Shelter operator Women In Need has applied to open a home for families on Neptune Avenue between W. 22nd and 23rd streets. The city has yet to okay the idea, but locals and members of Community Board 13 already have reservations about the location, because it is close to rough-and-tumble Kaiser Park, according to a local community leader.

“We’re not against the shelter, we just feel this may not be the best spot for it,” said Eddie Mark, district manager of Community Board 13, who said it would be the first permanent homeless housing within the community board. “Homeless shelters come with a stigma, and since it’s near a park, we’re worried that it may become a place for the homeless to congregate during the day.”

And the location’s proximity to IS 239 — about two blocks away — makes some parents nervous, one said.

“I understand it’s tough times and shelters need to be put somewhere, but when it comes to schools and parks, I’d prefer shelters be a healthy distance away,” said Sheila Rivera, who lives with her two sons in Sea Gate. “We don’t know who’s in there. It could be dangerous for the kids.”

A spokesman for Women In Need would not give details on the plan until the city approves it.

“A proposal for a family shelter is currently pending before the city and once we have confirmation of if/when the project will move forward, we’ll look forward to engaging the community and educating them more about the proposed plan,” a spokesman for the operator said.

Local pols were outraged at the news and are demanding the city and shelter operators hold a public meeting explaining the plan, according to a letter from Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) signed by Borough President Adams, state Sen. Diane Savino (D–Coney Island), and Assemblywoman Pam Harris (D–Coney Island).

“When we were notified of the project, it had already been in the works for over a year, and had the mayor’s approval. Since that time, we have consistently requested a meeting for all of the elected representatives with the mayor — that request has been repeatedly rebuffed,” the letter states. “We are adamant that city hall hold public meetings in the Coney Island community, to explain to residents why their neighborhood — one of the most geographically and economically marginalized community districts in the city — is the right site for such a facility.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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