Local residents and business owners are set to weigh in at a public meeting tomorrow night of the citing of two homeless shelters slated to open this fall on 4th Avenue in Lower Park Slope.
Earlier this year, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) notified residents that the buildings located at 535 4th Avenue (between 14th & 15th Street) and 555 4th Avenue (between 15th & 16th Street) in Park Slope would become shelters for women and children instead of the originally planned commercial and mixed-use buildings, respectively.
The non-profit Women in Need (WIN) will operate both facilities, which are currently under construction, Former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the president and CEO of WIN, which is one of a number of the City’s providers of shelter and support for women and children. The new high-quality borough-based facilities are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning The Tide on Homelessness in New York City” plan, which is a comprehensive plan to addressing homelessness across the five boroughs through a borough-based approach.
The buildings are expected to serve a combined 153 families with children experiencing homelessness as they get back on their feet, including fathers, according to DHS.
The buildings will also provide on-site services that will include case management, individual and group counseling, permanency planning and housing placement assistance, referrals to medical and mental health services, support groups, independent living and life skills workshops, recreational programming for children and residential services and support in finding and securing employment.
The current owners of the building are Partners VII Fouth Owner LLC and Partner VII Fouth Owner LLC, according to signage on the buildings, which are currently under construction. At post time, KCP did not learn who exactly owns the building and what the financial agreement the city made with the owners to turn them into non-profit run homeless shelters.
City Council Member Brad Lander (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington), who is co-hosting the meeting tomorrow night along with Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D-Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill) and Community Boards 6 and 7, said he supports the shelters.
“I want a city where we have everyone in safe, permanent housing that they can afford but since we live in a city that has so many homeless families, we have a collective obligation-legal and moral-to provide safe shelter for them every night. And every community has to do their share,” said Lander.
But one business owner along 4th Avenue, who refused to give his name for business purposes, was more skeptical.
“I believe it to be a nice thing if it wasn’t planned in such a big scale. We talking about 280 apartment units between studios and three bedrooms. If the single women have between one to three kids per family that represents an average of two kids per house. So we talking about 280 unemployed women with 560 kids and no infrastructure available for the kids. Where are those kids supposed to go to school? All the schools are already crowded. They renovating the school between 13th and 14th streets on 4th Avenue, but they are not raising it by 10 floors. Anyway, this has been thrown at us in a week without warning. And the neighborhood is worried,” said the business owner.
DHS officials said the shelters are part of the city’s plan to close all cluster site housing, as part of the mayor’s plan for addressing homelessness which includes closing all remaining commercial hotel facilities and cluster sites in Brooklyn.
The cluster site program, which started in 2000, houses the homeless in privately owned apartments that are paid for by the city. De Blasio favors buying buildings, turning them over to non-profits and having them provide permanent housing.
According to DHS, there are nearly 16,500 homeless New Yorkers from Brooklyn in shelter citywide. There are approximately 17,000 homeless New Yorkers sheltered in Brooklyn. Nearly 20% of those New Yorkers who are sheltered in Brooklyn are in commercial hotels and cluster units, which this administration has committed to phasing out completely.
The shelters are part of the new approach to house homeless new yorker’s closer to the communities they called home, where support systems like family, schools, jobs, medical care, and houses of worship can help them stabilize their lives.
“Homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, so we need every community to come together to address homelessness. These high-quality facilities will offer families with children experiencing homelessness from Brooklyn the opportunity to be sheltered in their home borough, closer to their schools, jobs, support networks and communities they called home as they get back on their feet. Working together with neighbors and nonprofit service provider Win, we’re confident that these families will be warmly welcomed—and through collaborative support and compassion, we will make this the best experience it can be for these families as they get back on their feet,” said DHS spokesperson Arianna Fishman.
The community meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 1 at John Jay High School, 237 7th Avenue in Park Slope. Officials from both DHS and WIN are also slated to attend to answer any questions from the public.