Levin still a ‘no’ on HELP USA’s McGuinness shelter

Levin still a ‘no’ on HELP USA’s McGuinness shelter
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A Greenpoint councilman has come out against a proposed 200-bed homeless shelter in the neighborhood — even after praising the work done by the same organization at another shelter on the other side of town.

Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) toured HELP USA’s shelter in Brownsville last Friday at the behest of the Department of Homeless Services, which hopes to win over Levin in its plans to allow a four-story facility on McGuinness Boulevard near Clay Street.

But Levin was not, in fact, won over.

“The tour was very informative,” Levin said in a statement. “But I still have reservations about the plans for a men’s facility in Greenpoint.”

And he’s not alone.

Last month, more than 100 residents attended a community board meeting at the club Warsaw to vent at the city and at HELP USA, neither of which sent a representative.

“You want to do something with the place — make it a community center for our children,” said Jean Ladusch, who lives nearby. “Greenpoint is growing up. We don’t need to be destroyed by this bulls—t anymore.”

Others complained that the facility would “bookend” the neighborhood with two homeless residencies, as an SRO hotel on Huron Street has long attracted the neighborhood’s attention for drug use and harassment, residents say.

But HELP USA, the non-profit headed by Andrew Cuomo’s sister, has another hurdle to overcome aside from community vitriol.

The industrial building is home to many artists who can’t just be kicked off the property, thanks to the new Loft Law, which allows them to stay in their formerly illegal pads.

The Department of Homeless Services said that a lawyer is looking into options for HELP USA to take control of the building, which might include evicting or buying out the artists. HELP USA also would need to get a zoning change from manufacturing to residential.

If the organization succeeds, the center could be the latest edition to North Brooklyn, since three other shelters currently operate in Williamsburg.

The Department of Homeless Services estimated that there were 336 homeless people in Brooklyn in 2008, which is a 24 percent decrease from the previous year, and 43 percent less than 2005 numbers.

Police officers shield Councilman Steven Levin (D-Greenpoint) and city officials as they emerge from a private fact-finding tour of the HELP USA Women’s Center in Brownsville on Friday.
Community Newspaper Group / Joe Anuta