It might have been raining cats and dogs, but that didn’t stop City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Crown Heights residents today from demanding that a newly constructed building that the city is slating for homeless families be turned into permanent low-income housing instead.
Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights), alongside Community Board 9 Chair Musa Moore and 43rd Democratic District Leader Geoffrey Davis braved the drenching elements to rally against the city’s plan across the street from the site at 267 Rogers Avenue.
“Our community has and continues to be over saturated, we are not receiving our fair share in the sense of the entire city of New York. Everyone is not pulling their weight in terms of addressing the homeless crisis. We have a serious homeless crisis, but we need to address this issue as a whole as an entire city. We want to make sure the communities all across New York recognize that we all have a responsibility,” said Cumbo.
The city plan would make it so the building would temporarily house 132 homeless families and another 32 families permanently. But opponents say creating more permanent low-income housing is an actual solution to the homeless crisis plaguing the borough. Specifically, because it is the rising rents and market-driven housing developments that are displacing families leading to the growth in the homeless population.
“Million dollar condos and new shelters is neither wise nor workable policy for our community. Shelters are not the answer to our housing crisis. The City should take every opportunity to build affordable to the neighborhood and the City should work to keep families in their homes. At the State level, I am fighting alongside colleagues to establish a Home Stability Support program to ensure vulnerable New Yorkers can stay in their homes. At the City level, sites like 267 Rogers Avenue should be devoted to permanent housing, not shelters. Keeping our communities whole means stable homes for our neighbors,” said Hamilton in an emailed statement.
Crown Heights is already in the midst of receiving three homeless shelters as part of de Blasio plans to build 90 new shelters across the city, starting with the controversial men’s shelter, Bergen House, which would house 104 men over the age of 62.
Cumbo said she wants the City to realize the “oversaturation” of homeless shelters in her district, which has had two shelters, according to her, “spring up overnight.” Brooklyn has a total of 163 homeless shelters as of this year second only to the Bronx.
Cumbo went on to ask the Mayor for an overall assessment in the homeless shelter system including collecting data on the pre-existing rates of displacement, an assessment of the Bergen Street shelter and an evaluation and improvements to existing shelters.
According to DHS reports, Brooklyn is one of the highest borough’s with homeless families, accounting for around a quarter of the homeless families in the city as of 2016. The community already has 19 shelters and with this one will be 20. The city plans on closing 16 of those shelters by the end of the year with the opening of the Rogers Avenue shelter.
Residents and community leaders believe that permanent low-income housing will bring stability to struggling neighborhoods and allow for economic growth and success if families are able to invest back into their community as permanent residents.
Lifelong Crown Heights resident, Doctor Yvonne Reid, a retired principal of P.S. 397, cited the need for permanent housing so that children can receive a complete and quality education. A new report from The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness states that 1 in 8 children are homeless and are at-risk of falling behind academically, absenteeism, and suspension among other risk factors.
“My concern is for children. As a principle, I had youngsters who lived in shelters, they were there for six months, then they were moved to the Bronx. Then the next year they would be back, they were with me for six months and then they would move again. Why not have a place for these families to be here permanently so their children education is not impacted negatively,” said Reid.
Residents also complained about Also at hand, is the lack of communication from DHS with the community about the plan. The City claims they notified the community and elected officials of the plan on Feb. 15., but Cumbo and others claim they just recently learned about the plan through a phone call.
“They [Crown Heights residents] deserve the right to continue to shape their community without a building that one day is market rate the next day it’s a homeless shelter with no discussion and no cooperation from the community,” said Cumbo.
A Town Hall Meeting to discuss the proposed shelter is slated for between 6-8 p.m., April 6, at P.S. 161, 330 Crown Street in Crown Heights. Hamilton and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson will serve as the elected leaders heading the meeting.