Park nope: Park Slope residents create petition to protest planned family shelters

Sign of scorn: Locals created a petition to protest two homeless shelters planned for Fourth Avenue.

More than 200 people have signed a petition protesting the city’s plan to open homeless shelters at two neighboring Park Slope developments, hoping to rally enough community opposition to persuade the city to call off the shelter plan before finalizing its agreement with the properties’ owner.

“The whole idea is to be able to rally enough people to say we are not okay with this decision and that we should reconsider it,” said Shruti Kapoor, who published the petition on Change.org Sunday on behalf of residents in her Fourth Avenue condominium, who have banded together as the Fourth Avenue Committee.

The city announced its plan earlier this month to open shelters in the fall at neighboring properties being built at 535 and 555 Fourth Ave., which would feature a combined 253 units, and offer childcare services, along with programs designed to help New Yorkers — predominantly women and children — find permanent housing.

At a public meeting hosted by Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander on May 1, the legislator told locals that the city had exceeded its commitment to provide 30-days notice of shelter openings by several months.

But many locals said they were caught off guard by the shelter announcement, and the audience repeatedly booed presenters, including Jackie Bray, first deputy commissioner at the Department of Homeless Services, and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who heads up the non-profit organization that will operate the shelters, called Win.

The petition states locals have serious concerns about the density of the proposed shelters, although Lander noted earlier this month that the two buildings — originally intended as market-rate rentals — would have attracted the same amount of people under their original use, only wealthier.

And the proposed Fourth Avenue shelters are not the largest in Brooklyn, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, who noted that Win operates two neighboring shelters that serve a combined 412 families elsewhere in the borough.

Kapoor goes on to claim via the petition that Fourth Avenue between Prospect Avenue and Ninth Street has become a dumping ground for the city’s social and environmental problems, and is already host to a Department of Sanitation garage and waste-transfer station, the Department of Transportation’s noxious Hamilton Avenue asphalt plant, and the Gowanus Parole Center, making the addition of two massive shelters unbearable.

None of those facilities, however, are actually located on Fourth Avenue; both the sanitation garage and parole center are located on Second Avenue, while the asphalt plant and waste-transfer station are on Hamilton Avenue.

One thing omitted from the petition are concerns over the shelter’s effects on nearby property values, but Kapoor — a condo owner — admitted that issue remains a source of worry for her, and her neighbors, despite claims Bray made at the May 1st meeting that shelters do not affect the value of neighboring homes.

“Even though in the town hall they said historically there’s no data that shows property values aren’t effected by shelters, the fact is there’s very little date on this type of huge… we’re not talking about one shelter, we’re talking about two huge shelters near our properties,” Kapoor said. “Theres no doubt this will have a negative impact on the property value.”

Kapoor is a women’s rights activist and founder of Sayfty, an advocacy group that promotes programs and initiatives that protect women against domestic violence and rape. She said she see’s no conflict in advocating against the shelters, despite its intended purpose of serving mostly women and children, claiming restrictions that prevent families from stay more than a year will prevent them from making meaningful connections within the community, and from getting the services they need.

“I’m all for helping and empowering women, but I don’t see this as a way of empowering women and families,” she said. “The city hasn’t given us enough reason and information on how they’re helping them out.”

The petition’s claim that shelter residents get the boot after one year is not true, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, who said that all homeless New Yorkers have the right to shelter for as long as they need it.

The city will host a public contract hearing on June 27, where the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services will share a final draft version of the city’s agreement with the developer before it’s signed.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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