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Sunset Parkers demand better security at 49th Street homeless shelter

Home unsafe, home: Security failing at Sunset Park homeless shelter, locals say

Brooklyn Daily
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Sunset Parkers are demanding the city and a homeless shelter operator reign in wild residents at a controversial hotel-turned-shelter.

Security workers at the former Sleep Inn stood idly by while a resident, who was later arrested, allegedly brandished a beer bottle and yelled obscenities at a woman in front of the 49th Street shelter on Dec. 27, the victim said. She was visiting her parents, who live next door, and said guards just watched the fracas while her family had to come to her rescue.

“They did not do anything — they came outside but didn’t come to help,” said Kenia Hernandez. “My brother grabbed a baseball bat and was going outside, but I stopped him and I called the cops.”

The Department of Homeless Services temporarily housed up to 100 homeless men in the 100-unit hotel between Second and Third avenues until November, when it converted the building into a shelter and officials said operators would provide drug and alcohol counseling, job training, and security for up to 150 employed or job-seeking men.

But neighbors have found people smoking pot, drinking, and urinating in front of their homes, said Altagracia Rodriguez, who lives next door. And a man who loiters in front of the shelter followed and harassed another neighbor last month, Hernandez said.

Locals are demanding better security at the site.

The Department of Homeless Services “does not tolerate law breaking of any kind from its clients” and is cooperating with a police investigation into the incident, a department spokeswoman said. There are three security guards doing rounds inside and outside of the building every half-hour, according to information from the department.

The agency and Mayor DeBlasio have faced recent scrutiny over how they’re handling the city’s homeless. DeBlasio’s top aid on the matter departed in August, and Department of Homeless Services chief Gilbert Taylor stepped down last month just days before the mayor announced a new program to combat street homelessness.

The Hernandez family and other block residents held a rally outside the shelter on Dec. 5 with the community group Village of Sunset Park decrying the shelter’s poor state. The group is not against housing the homeless — it just wants the homes to be run properly, one member said.

“There has been a shelter on my street for 30 years and we have never had a problem,” said Ramon Acevedo. “But this is completely disrespect­ful.”

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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