More storm over shelter as residents protest homeless center on McGuinness

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

Here they go again.

Greenpoint residents could were feeling déjà vu on Tuesday night as they found themselves lambasting yet another proposal for a 200-bed men’s shelter on McGuinness Boulevard — the second such proposal in eight months.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t be back here this soon,” Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) told Community Board 1. “My position has not changed — 400 McGuinness Blvd. is not an appropriate place for a [homeless] center.”

The latest plan is being shepherded by the Manhattan-based Bowery Residents’ Committee, which wants to turn the four-story industrial warehouse at Clay Street into a transitional housing center for homeless men suffering from substance abuse and mental illness.

Bowery’s Executive Director Muzzy Rosenblatt defended his plan before more than 150 Greenpoint residents at the hearing, saying it would be the “best assessment center in New York City.”

But one man said that the only shelter that the neighborhood needs is for residents being priced out.

“I wish we didn’t need any shelters,” said Rosenblatt. “I’d would love to build more housing, but the city has a legal and moral responsibility it has embraced.”

Speaker after speaker pummeled the proposal and questioned its far-flung location at the very tip of Greenpoint.

“Putting your facility in the middle of all that will deteriorate that community in that area,” said Christine Holowacz, a Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee member. “We don’t need a big shelter where you’re going to bus people here from other places.”

Other residents pointed to existing three-quarter houses on Manahttan Avenue where drugs are traded that could attract recovering addicts seeking treatment at the shelter.

“You’re giving them a drug source,” said one McGuinness Boulevard resident, who declined to give her name. “If you wanted to help them, put them somewhere not so close from a site where people are struggling too.”

A Department of Homeless Services official defended the location, where it has been hoping to put a shelter since last fall, as a necessary component of its overall plan to add eight new shelters throughout the city.

“We as the city need to purchase services — we’re going to go through a contractual obligation with this provider,” said agency Deputy Commissioner George Nashak.

The city has not set a timeline for approving Bowery Residents’ Committee as the site’s operator, and Bowery must still sign a lease with the building’s new owner, Shimie Horn. But a government source said that the Department of Homeless Services is adamant at locating a shelter of some type at that location.

Residents who live on that block, such as Alicia Mountain, are considering moving.

“I’d be worried about the heavy volume of men staying for a short period of time who are not invested in this neighborhood,” said Mountain.