A residential Windsor Terrace street is ground zero for opponents of the mayor’s controversial scheme to build new homeless shelters throughout the five boroughs, according to block residents, who called the clamor of protests against their neighbor — the city’s homelessness czar — a new normal.
“It’s been happening pretty regularly,” said 18-year-old Isaiah Klein-Cloud. “People are kind of used to it by now.”
Cloud shares his Sherman Street block between 10th and 11th Avenues with Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks, whom Hizzoner in 2016 tapped to lead the agency, making Banks the face of his initiative to create new shelters, some of which occupy hotels, for transient New Yorkers in neighborhoods with already high concentration of homeless people.
But Banks has snubbed formal invitations to address locals’ concerns in the past, and that reluctance apparently motivated New Yorkers to bring their grievances to his doorstep as early as September 2016, when protestors from distant Maspeth, Queens vowed to stake out the official’s townhouse nightly until the city dropped a plan to construct a shelter in the area, according to a DNA Info report.
Those demonstrators were just the first to gather on the block, according to neighbors, who said a Monday protest featuring a busload of angry residents from Rockaway, Queens — who demanded the city abandon efforts to build a shelter in their neighborhood with chants of “fire Banks” — was the third such rally since last summer.
The latest protest, however, was relatively tame in comparison to past demonstrations, one of which drew a “nasty” crowd whose members blasted air horns while storming Sherman Street, according to one block resident.
“This is our third,” said Noa Heyman. “It’s much more civilized than the first one.”
Another man living on Sherman Street said most of the demonstrations don’t bother locals on the block, because they tend to wrap up fast, and Banks often apologizes to neighbors afterwards.
“They come and go very quickly,” said the block resident, who declined to give his name. “Banks apologizes. He says, “Sorry for disturbing your evening.’ ”
And although the rallies seemed to do little to change the city’s plan to combat homelessness, they did incite thoughtful dialogue about the issue between Heyman and her kids ages 5, 7, and 9, who began to ask some tough questions after watching protestors blast their neighbor.
“We have conversations about homelessness, our responsibilities, and why these people feel upset about having a shelter in their neighborhoods,” she said.