The city is rushing to open a new homeless shelter in Greenpoint to avoid answering to opponents in the community, according to neighbors and a local pol.
A shelter is set to open at 58-66 Clay St., a former halfway house, this week, a single week after the city notified the neighborhood’s assemblyman. A community board leader said the panel is dismayed that the city is opening the shelter without consulting residents first.
“We are not opposed to a planned shelter program. The homeless of our community must be placed in decent standard housing,” said Community Board 1 chairwoman Dealice Fuller. “However, these shelters must be carefully woven into communities and not smuggled in by dead of night.”
The city’s Department of Homeless Services sent a letter to Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D–Greenpoint) last week stating that it planned to open an emergency shelter within a week. The letter stressed the scale of the city’s current record homeless population.
“As a city and government, we have a duty to assist in helping to rebuild the lives of homeless men, women, and children,” the department’s deputy commissioner Camille Rivera wrote, citing the 57,665 people listed as homeless in New York, a third of those being working families who do not make enough to pay for housing. “Every borough, neighborhood, and community district, as a part of the city of New York, must do its part to address and assist the growing number of homeless families.”
The problem, some believe, is that Greenpoint is already doing more than its fair share. There are already three homeless shelters in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, including the 300-capacity men’s shelter on Skillman Avenue, Lentol said. The assemblyman, Brooklyn’s longest-serving pol, said that the city is banking on a lack of opposition — until it’s too late to uproot the shelter.
“I have seen mayoral administrations come and go in my time, and they unfortunately all operate the same way, through the path of least resistance,” said Lentol, who was first elected in 1972. “We are saturated enough. This emergency exists throughout the city, and they should not burden just one community board district.”
The new shelter is supposed to accommodate as many as 91 homeless adult couples.
Locals say they are worried about the shelter bringing more crime to the area.
“Where do they think these people are going to go when they leave the shelter?” said Jackie Brezeveski, who lives nearby on India Street. “I know most of them are good people, but there are always bad apples in the bunch and some of them will cause trouble.”
The city did not return calls for comment.