Holocaust Park has become a homeless hangout, residents say

No linen, but lots of fresh air: Homeless people have been sleeping in Holocaust Memorial Park, because the benches are comfortable to lay down on, according to officers at the Holocaust Memorial Committee
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park has become an unofficial homeless shelter, say residents who want the derelicts they find lounging in the public space to move somewhere else.

Members of the Holocaust Memorial Committee say Brooklyn’s only official testimony to the horror of Hitler’s genocidal rampage has become a destination for weary transients looking to get some sleep — and it’s all because of the park’s comfy benches.

“Benches at bus stations have dividers, so, you can’t lay down, but the benches in Holocaust Memorial Park don’t,” said Inna Stavitsky, the president of the Holocaust Memorial Committee. “The benches at Holocaust Memorial Park are very convenient to lie down on and the homeless people abuse the park and they abuse the benches.”

No homeless were around when we visited the park, but residents say that on most clear evenings you can find one or two homeless people snoozing there, although no one has reported seeing large groups assembling on the park grounds.

But the homeless aren’t just relaxing there. The park has been subject to a number of heinous indecencies by vagrants, park lovers say.

“They’re constantly sleeping there, urinating, committing all kinds of anti-social behavior,” said Sheepshead Bay Democratic district leader Ari Kagan. “They feel it’s their place. People call and complain about seeing rotten apples and garbage inside the park. It’s an issue.”

Stavitsky says she’s been working with Councilman Michael Nelson’s office to find a way to make the park less comfortable to sleep. She’s confident that the problem can be resolved if additional lighting is added to the park and if the seamless benches are replaced with traditional park benches that come with dividers

“Ultimately, it’s a funding issue,” said Chaim Deutsch, Nelson’s chief of operations. “If Parks has the money, fine, if not, the councilman has no problem putting capitol funding towards that. We’d either have to wait till next budget, or try and move around some money that was allocated for a specific purpose, but wasn’t used yet.”

Captain John Chell of the 61st Precinct has sent officers to the park on several instances to deal with the homeless issue.

“Short term, I have cops checking out the place,” said Chell. “Obviously, it’s a very important piece of property, it’s sacred, and people should be able to enjoy it in the morning, and it should be protected at night.”

The 61st Precinct may be working to curtail the homeless squatters, but Kagan vividly remembers his last memorial hobo sighting on Sept. 30.

“It was 6 pm on a Sunday,” he said. “I saw a homeless person there, sleeping on a bench, just like they usually do, sleeping on the bench near the bay.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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