The city announced its plans to build a men’s homeless shelter in Bensonhurst, and is reportedly looking to build a second shelter in either Bay Ridge or Dyker Heights, according to an anonymous political insider.
The proposed Bensonhurst facility will rise on the corner of Bath Avenue and Bay 29th Street, a vacant lot that was formerly an Enterprise car rental, the Department of Homeless Services told local leaders in late December. The 150-bed shelter will be operated by a homeless provider called the Institute for Community Living.
Officials have not yet chosen a location for the other southern Brooklyn shelter, but are reportedly searching for a site within Community District 10, which encompasses Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, and Fort Hamilton, according to the politico who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Community Board 10 had not yet been alerted to the possibility of a new shelter as of Jan. 26, and representatives with the Department of Homeless Services did not respond to a request for comment.
The two shelters, as well as a third planned for Brighton Beach, are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” program — a four-year initiative that seeks to reduce the shelter system’s footprint by building 90 community-based shelters spread evenly across the five boroughs by community board district.
Previously, under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, shelters were mostly built in areas where they were cheapest to operate, which often meant clustering the homeless population in only poor neighborhoods.
These new facilities, all for single adults, would allow the city to stop housing the homeless in hotels and controversial “cluster sites” — apartments in private buildings that tend to rake in additional costs and building violations.
Homeless shelters are considered emergency resources, and are thus exempt from the burdensome land use review procedure. The city does not need to collect community input to build a shelter, and must only give locals 30 days to voice their concerns about the proposal before forging ahead.
That will change slightly in 2022, when a new law goes into effect requiring the city to hold a public hearing before building a shelter. The law, introduced by southern Brooklyn State Sen. Diane Savino, originally called for shelters to undergo the city’s rigorous land use review procedure (ULURP), but the bill’s text was changed following pushback from the city.
In a recent meeting held by the Bensonhurst community board, some local leaders objected to the shelter slated for Bath Avenue.
“Where this is going to be is, I think, two blocks away from the grammar school that’s there by the precinct,” said Community Board 11 Chair Bill Guarinello, who runs the social services program Heartshare, which operates two family shelters in the Bronx. “So I don’t know if it’s the greatest spot. There are concerns … I don’t think that our community fits with a men’s shelter, a 150-bed no less.”
The shelter site is two blocks away from a high school, the East Academy of Science and Technology, and about seven blocks from PS 108 and PS 200, but is not near any other schools.
Guarinello also said that he worried the shelter’s residents would roam around the newly-renovated Bensonhurst Park, located one block away, and that there wasn’t enough public space to accommodate the influx of people.
“Also they’re not even taking into account our infrastructure. There are only two parks, there are schools, there are houses of worship,” he said. “We have to find out what will the non-for-profit do to support them versus just dumping 150 people in here every night.”
Guarinello argued that the shelter should house local students who live in temporary housing instead of single men. He added that the fight over the proposal won’t “be pretty.”
“If there’s no public hearing, do what you guys have to do. Let your community know, let your neighbors know,” he said. “It isn’t gong to be pretty.”
The commanding officer of the 62nd Precinct, located seven blocks from the shelter, expressed his own disappointment about the incoming shelter at the Jan. 14 meeting.
“Some depressing news you just gave,” Captain Tao Chen said after Guarinello’s announcement. “I mean, I knew about the plan about the shelter, but you know.”
Community Board 11 will hold a meeting with the Department of Homeless Services about the details regarding the new shelter at 11 am on Friday, Jan. 29, which will be streamed live on the community board’s Facebook page.