On Friday, a judge temporarily blocked the planned opening of a new homeless shelter on 1173 Bergen Street in Crown Heights. The ruling stands until another judge can issue a more permanent ruling, which will decide the project’s fate. DNA Info has a great write-up about the judge’s order, which you can read here

Towards the end, the DNA Info write-up provides a crucial piece of context

But Wooten decided a delay until Tuesday would have no great effect and said arguments from both sides will be heard by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Katherine Levine at a hearing at noon Tuesday. She will decide whether or not to grant an injunction, which could delay the opening more significantly.

The shelter on Bergen Street has faced serious backlash from its neighbors since the city announced the opening last month. The 106-bed shelter would house men over the age of 62.

The facility would be one of the first of 90 new homeless shelters slated to open citywide under a plan by Mayor de Blasio to overhaul the Department of Homeless Services. Two of those 90 have opened so far: a shelter serving LGBTQ young people in The Bronx and a women’s shelter in Prospect Heights, DHS said.

The mayor’s plan intends to close all “cluster” and hotel sites previously used to house homeless residents and families, replacing them with the 90 new shelters in the hopes of reducing the record-high homeless population of 60,000 people by 2,500 in five years, the city has said.

This legal action from local residents represents follow through on a promise first to fight the city tooth and nail to prevent the opening of this new shelter, which is only four blocks from the notorious Bedford-Atlantic Armory Men’s Shelter.

Though the City has put on a brave face, maintaining that the shelter will open as planned, this development doesn’t bode well for the Mayor’s larger plan to open more than 90 shelters across the five boroughs. Today’s situation in Crown Heights, and the knowledge that 89 other shelters are in the pipeline, has undoubtably put other community groups on notice. This is going to be along fight.

The fact still remains, however, that New York needs more homeless shelters. With the homeless population approaching record highs, and the current shelter system running out of room, there is little choice but to add more capacity.

The administration probably can’t afford to repeat this battle another 89 times though. A more iterative, community based process is needed, with the Mayor stepping up and selling the larger plan to the public. As I’ve written before, New York City needs to market and explain the necessity of homeless shelters to skeptical residents. The City must explain why these new shelters won’t be blights on communities and how they’ll effectively serve constituents.

Featured image courtesy of Brian Turner on Flikr


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