Homeowners say ‘NIMBY’ to homeless shelters
The message from residents in the East Brooklyn area is clear. No more shelters. More being the operative word. Stakeholders and community activists have continually made their position public, most recently in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn.
During a local rally earlier this month, residents from East Flatbush called on the City to end its support of construction for a new homeless shelter for women at 4612 Glenwood Rd. The wide open lot is the proposed site. It literally touches the backyards of dozens of homes in a neighborhood known to anyone whose had to make a trip to Cablevision’s Central Brooklyn branch.
Despite the fact that construction for the shelter has already begun, residents contest that the building must either be scaled back or cease entirely. They protest the homeless shelter’s size on the grounds that construction has already negatively affected their homes’ physical infrastructure and foundations. They also question the plan based on their belief that the project will shatter existing density limits to the detriment of the neighborhood. EastBrooklyn.com will bring you more updates on this development as it continues in that community.
But, residents in East Flatbush aren’t the only ones up in arms over what they feel is an unfair burden of homeless shelters in their part of New York City.
Late April, residents from East New York during their monthly community board meeting had to come to terms with the imminent opening of a 32-unit shelter for homeless families coming to East New York.
It will be run by the non-profit Housing Bridge. The organization currently operates 16 facilities citywide.
New York Council Member Inez Barron during that meeting addressed the issue. “Let me be clear. I am not supporting the family shelter coming. Our community is over-saturated with shelters halfway houses, three-quarter houses and cluster-sites and people who are in overnight accommodations.”
The controversy over shelters is complex. Many communities in Central Brooklyn and East New York have pockets of high underemployed and unemployed residents. So, technically, being around poverty or those in need is not new. Nor is it the bone of contention.
It may all be about power. These same communities have little say in larger factors affecting job development. And they often have little formal sway over the Department of Homeless Services. DHS is the city agency charged to manage the city’s homeless problems. Currently, DHS has the ultimate say on where homeless New Yorkers are placed under their mandate to site people as they are approved in any place where there is space.
So, without control over the car that’s speeding down their streets pushing top-down policies, communities end up as back-seat drivers perpetually pumping phantom brakes and saying “not-in-my-backyard” to what seems to be a decent gesture on the City’s part to house those in need of shelter.
It seems communities adopt a NIMBY stance in lieu of driver controls. They take that defense posture against the threat of being over-saturated with more than their “fair share” of shelters, shelters that may become a haven for the overcrowding, ill-treatment of needy New Yorkers.
Estimates on the various kinds of homeless shelters just in Brooklyn hover slightly higher than 200. That number is growing as more than 1 in every 2000 New Yorkers become homeless, according to DHS.
Right now, 53,118 people are homeless according to DHS, including more than 22,000 school-aged children who currently call a shelter home.
According to DHS, Brooklyn bears the brunt of homelessness rates by HOPE standards, more than the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island combined.
The only community in Central Brooklyn on record in support of more shelters in their neighborhood is Bushwick, whose documented such support in their annual Community Board 4 district needs statements.
Yet, even Community Board 4 offers to support such shelters with a caveat — only for Bushwick residents in need. No room for homeless people in neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant or Greenpoint.
HELP Women’s Center: 116 Williams Ave., which helps adult women. Men can drop-in at The Gathering Place 2402 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn from 7:30 am — 8:30 pm. Visit DHS’ website for more information.