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Sunset Park shouldering city’s hotel-shelter burden • Brooklyn Paper

Sunset Park shouldering city’s hotel-shelter burden

Solutions, not shelters: More than 200 people from across the city came out on Oct. 15 to the Sunset Park rally against hotels in the area housing the homeless, and criticized local politicians for their lack of action in the issue.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Sunset Park’s many hotels are a hot destination — for the city’s homeless.

Officials are housing more than 2,000 people in “temporary” shelters in former hotels citywide, but nowhere more than in Sunset Park, where more than 200 — 10 percent of the city’s entire hotel-sheltered homeless — are shacking up, according to a recent report by Comptroller Scott Stringer. The sum confirms that Sunset Park is shouldering more than its fair share of homeless, said one community activist.

“To have this number dumped on us is criminal — not just for Sunset Parkers but for the homeless,” said Sunset Parker Tony Giordano. “As upset as I am on behalf of my community and myself, I’m more concerned for the homeless who are being warehoused here. It’s not fair to anyone.”

Back in November 2015, the Department of Homeless Services booked just 324 hotel rooms across the five boroughs. But the number of rooms booked by the city ballooned to more than 2,069 by the end of October this year — despite the Mayor’s pledge last year to scale back the agency’s reliance on inns, city investigators found.

There are at least five such inns from 22nd to 39th streets between Second and Fifth avenues. And there are six more under construction in the area that skeptical locals believe will be rolling out the red carpet for the indigent when they are completed.

Sunset Park residents comprises less than two percent of the city’s population, but the 209 rooms that the city has booked in Sunset Park account for 10 percent of all the units that house the city’s homeless, according to city data. A rep for the Department of Homeless Services wouldn’t explain why the use of Sunset Park inns has surged this year, but emphasized the hotels as a temporary solution to managing a larger problem.

“We are only using hotels as a temporary bridge until we can open enough shelters to keep homeless children and adults off the street,” said rep David Neustadt. “This is a citywide problem, and we need the help of all the city’s communities in finding good shelters.”

The taxpayers shell out an average $85 per night to house a single homeless adult in a hotel — and $174 per night for a family, according to a Department of Homeless services spokeswoman, who could not provide figures specific to Sunset Park.

But local pols find that hard to stomach when nearby nabes such as Bay Ridge and Park Slope have a noticeable lack of shelters — despite the neighborhood’s rising number of street homeless. It’s a problem that needs more than a band-aid solution, said one pol who pledged to hound the city for greater transparency.

“The city as a whole needs shelter solutions that are not dependent on temporary hotel placement and communities like Sunset Park are carrying a burden,” said Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park). “I’m convinced [Department of Homeless Services] has an obligation for more communication and transparency in the communities where they operate, and I will hold them accountable.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.

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