Two Major Setbacks for New York’s Homeless Shelter Plan

Last week, in Downtown Brooklyn, a judge issued a stinging injunction against the city’s plan to open a homeless shelter on Crown Height’s Bergen Street. The planned shelter, the first of 90 new locations, would house 104 men over the age of 62. Since being announced, the facility has encountered fierce opposition from local residents who complain that there are already too many shelters in the neighborhood.

Other proposed shelters have also been announced for the community, with predictable reactions. On Friday, city councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and residents blasted the city’s plan to house homeless families at a residential building currently under construction on 267 Rogers Avenue.

In her press conference Cumbo criticised the “oversaturation” of homeless facilities in the Crown Heights-Prospect Heights area; a total of three have been either proposed or opened by the city in the last four months.

The judge agreed, according to DNA Info:

That argument was front and center at Tuesday’s hearing where Levine grilled both sides on whether or not she should consider how “Fair Share” — guidelines in the City Charter regarding the equal distribution of city facilities such as garbage transfer stations and homeless shelters — was adequately followed in the case.

The plaintiffs attorney, Jacqueline McMickens, argued Crown Heights is already overburdened by homeless shelters and the Bergen Street shelter should not open without consideration of Fair Share.

In response, attorneys from the city argued they are required to conduct a Fair Share analysis for 1173 Bergen St., a document completed and released Monday, but no public input is required on that analysis before the shelter opens.

Levine, however, seemed skeptical about whether or not the city correctly followed Fair Share in the creation of the shelter, rhetorically asking why the administration chose to put three of five of the first new homeless shelter in the Crown Heights area.

“Why wouldn’t they show good faith and decide to put one in Park Slope or Carroll Gardens?” the judge asked.

Although I hesitate to side with the residents, New York clearly needs to build more, better functioning homeless shelters, it’s surprising that the city would opt to place so many homeless shelters within the same community. Given the harsh reaction that communities have towards even one shelter, it’s politically foolhardy to expect three to go unopposed.

The narrative the city targeting less affluent neighborhoods is also going to give opponents even more firepower. Three shelters within a half mile of each other, and close to one of the city’s most notorious shelters, was almost a surefire way to trigger “Fair Share” arguments.

This tone deafness is especially surprising for an administration that prides itself on understanding the perspective of minority and less affluent neighborhoods.

I continue to believe that for this plan to work, the city will need to invest many more resources into selling the homeless shelter plan to communities.

Above: Footage from a recent Town Hall opposing the Mayor’s homeless shelter plans in Crown Heights

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