Pols rally against planned homeless shelter in Gravesend

gravesend homeless shelter protest
Assembly Member William Colton led a rally against a proposed homeless shelter on 86th Street on Dec. 3.
Photo courtesy of Assembly Member William Colton

Gravesend neighbors and politicians want the city to cancel plans to open a homeless shelter in the neighborhood. 

Despite the rain on Sunday,  Dec. 3, a large crowd of south Brooklyn residents gathered on 86th Street to protest the opening of a 150-bed facility at the corner of 25th Avenue. The facility, which is planned to be operated by Bronx-based VIP Community Services, is being developed by 86th Street NY LLC, and will likely be for single men.

“It’s a terrible location for a shelter,” said Assembly Member William Colton, who organized the rally, in a statement, “In a main business district surrounded by residential areas, and near churches, mosques and schools.”

Colton — along with U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Council Member-Elect Susan Zhuang — are among the leading voices of opposition to the shelter. At Sunday’s rally outside 2501 86th St., the pols claimed the shelter would be bad for both the neighborhood and the people who would live at the shelter.

site of planned gravesend shelter
The city plans to build the shelter at the corner of 86th Street and 25th Avenue. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

“Homeless shelters do not solve the problem of homelessness,” Colton said in a statement before the rally. “What homeless people need is permanent housing, which would be less expensive, at a time when the city budget and city services are being slashed, and less disruptive to nearby businesses and residents.”

A spokesperson for City Hall said the proposed shelter would be a “high-quality transitional housing facility” operated by VIP Community Services. With onsite services available to residents, transitional housing facilities help homeless New Yorkers stabilize their lives as they work to find and move into permanent housing. 

“As we work to transform the shelter system and enhance our service offerings, we remain committed to ensuring that every community has adequate safety net resources to support New Yorkers in need,” the spox said. “This high-quality transitional housing facility will be the first in this community district, providing critical capacity for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.”

The number of people staying in city shelters has skyrocketed this year, in part due to the burgeoning migrant crisis.

 According to the Department of Homeless Services’ daily census, nearly 90,000 people slept in New York City shelters on the night of Dec. 3. More than 16,000 of them were single adult men. 

According to city data, there are no shelters of any kind in Brooklyn Community District 11, where the 86th Street shelter would be located — but 117 people currently staying in city shelters last lived within the district. 

Colton has a history of rallying against homeless shelters in his district — in 2021, he led the charge against a proposed shelter on Bath Avenue — which was set to be built by the same developer behind the new 86th Street shelter, Tejpal Sandhu of The Sandhu Group

susan zhuang at shelter protest
Council Member-elect Susan Zhuang said shelters do not solve homelessness. Photo courtesy of Susan Zhuang/X

“Homeless facilities provide temporary shelter and few support services to residents,” Zhuang said in a statement. “We should focus on long-term strategies that provide sustainable housing options, access to education and job opportunities, and comprehensive support systems.”

An online petition has already garnered more than 3,000 signatures decrying the creation of a homeless shelter in Gravesend.

If plans for the shelter proceed, doors will open in late 2024, and will provide residents the opportunity to receive dedicated case management, mental health services, and staff engagement as they work to stabilize their lives and transition to permanent housing.