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Helter shelter: Keep sex fiends out of W’burg refuge, say locals

Gimme shelter: Neighbors of the Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity on Porter Avenue say they don't want the city to transfer sex offenders into the facility.

The city must abandon its plan to send up to 50 sex offenders to a Williamsburg homeless shelter, say neighbors who claim putting so many deviants in one place is a recipe for disaster.

“This is a very, very dangerous situation. Would you put 50 murderers in one place? I don’t think so,” said nearby business owner Joseph Cartolano, one of many local residents and workers who gathered at a meeting at the Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity on Porter Avenue on July 22.

The Department of Homeless Services is trying to transfer dozens of men who have been convicted of sex crimes to the shelter, which is run by the Doe Fund, an organization aimed at helping homeless people find permanent work and housing. The offenders are currently living at the Bellevue Men’s Shelter in Manhattan, but the city recently decided that facility is too close to local schools, so it wants to pawn the pervs off on the Williamsburg refuge, which is in an industrial area of the neighborhood near the Newtown Creek and Bushwick.

But the Doe Fund says it is just not that kind of homeless shelter. It runs the facility as part of its “Ready, Willing, and Able” program, where it employs the residents in its iconic blue-shirted street-cleaning teams, and puts them through job-training and rehab so they can eventually find their own housing and full-time employment.

The organization says it can’t enroll sex offenders in its cleaning venture because they can’t go near schools and playgrounds, and every offender that takes one of the shelter’s 400 beds will displace one of the residents already working through the program.

The city has already tried to send several sex offenders to Porter Avenue, but the shelter says is has simply put them in a van and sent them straight back to Manhattan. The Doe Fund is also suing the city to keep the offenders out for good. And now it is appealing to local residents to add their voices to the opposition, claiming the sex offenders are a danger to the neighborhood, too.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?: Local dad Michael Chambers, his kids Ona and Floyd, and neighborhood youngster Laurel Franchell, express their concern about sex offenders moving into the neighborhood.
Photo by Jason Speakman

“This a terrible threat to this great community we are a part of,” said Harriet McDonald, who co-founded the Doe Fund with husband George McDonald in 1985.

The organization launched an online petition last month demanding Mayor DeBlasio call off the transfer, and has since amassed almost 2,000 signatures, many from people who left messages saying they live or work in the area and are terrified at the prospect of sex fiends on their sidewalks.

One local artist said those who work out of art and music studios in nearby warehouses would be particularly vulnerable to predators, as the creative types often walk home through the deserted streets in the wee hours of the morning.

“We have artists coming and going at all hours of the night … it’s just not going to be safe if these men are brought into the neighborhood,” said Maya Meisser, a nearby resident and an employee at the Brooklyn Fire Proof Stages, a studio and sound stage located directly across the street from the shelter.

The shelter says it will likely run a second meeting for residents on the evening of Aug. 5.

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at (718) 260–2511.
Plan of action: Local resident and business owner Joseph Cartolano says more neighbors need to know about the city sending homeless sex offenders to the neighborhood.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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