A controversial plan to turn a vacant W. Ninth Street building into a homeless shelter became a reality on Tuesday night due to Hurricane Sandy.
About 120 homeless male veterans who were displaced from a Queens shelter during the storm are receiving temporary housing at the building between Court Street and Hamilton Avenue — where the lease-holder intends to set up a permanent 170-bed homeless shelter despite community opposition.
The Department of Homeless Services broke the news of the hurricane shelter to Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman by letter on Monday, insisting it’s only temporary.
“We were told this is going to be short term, they will be out in less than a month,” said Hammerman.
The Institute for Community Living, which operates the storm-damaged Queens shelter, is in charge of the temporary W. Ninth Street facility.
The arrival of the storm shelter comes after neighbors protested a plan by Housing Solutions USA, which holds the lease on the site and intends to open the contested, long-term shelter.
Carroll Gardens residents expressed compassion for the displaced homeless vets, but echoed their angst about the plan for a permanent shelter.
“For veterans on a temporary basis until their place is rehabilitated, we can do that. Neighbor can help neighbor, no doubt about it,” said longtime Carroll Gardens resident Buddy Scotto, 84, who is completely opposed to the possibility of a permanent 170-bed homeless shelter in the up-and-coming area in the shadow of the Gowanus Expressway.
“This is the weakest part of our neighborhood, which means we need to strengthen this part of the neighborhood, not weaken it,” he said.
Carroll Gardens resident Matthew Morettini wants to make sure the temporary homeless shelter doesn’t become a permanent part of W. Ninth Street.
“I understand them coming in now since everyone was displaced with the hurricane, but I hope that doesn’t mean a final decision has been made,” he said. “Now it’s just happening without any other input from the community.”
The vets coming to W. Ninth Street — some of whom lost much of their belongings to the storm — hope their new neighbors will accept them.
“I hope the community understands that we served our country from Iraq and Vietnam,” said Mike, a 53-year-old Army veteran who declined to give his last name because he doesn’t want to publicize the fact he is homeless. “I don’t want to be pre-judged — we are veterans and we deserve respect.”
But other Carroll Gardens residents contend that the long-term proposal is unsafe for the kid-friendly neighborhood.
“It’s going to definitely increase crime rates, reduce safety, and reduce the value of the neighborhood,” said Tarek Ahmed, a father of five-month-old twins.
The Department of Homeless Services did not return calls before press time.
©2012 Community News Group
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