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Officials Blast New Homeless Shelter Being 'Smuggled' Into Greenpoint

By Serena Dai | November 10, 2014 5:22pm
 A building at 56-66 Clay Street is slated to become a homeless shelter under a plan by the city's Department of Homeless Services. 
A building at 56-66 Clay Street is slated to become a homeless shelter under a plan by the city's Department of Homeless Services. 
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

GREENPOINT — Local officials want to halt a plan to open a new homeless shelter until it receives proper public review — claiming the neighborhood is already overburdened with similar facilities and that the shelter was introduced in the "dead of night."

The city's Department of Homeless Services sent Assemblyman Joseph Lentol notice last week notifying him that a new shelter for 91 families without children would be opening at 56-66 Clay Street, at Manhattan Avenue.

Clay Family Residence, which used to be a halfway house for the formerly incarcerated, could start operating this week, according to a notice from the shelter's operator, nonprofit Home/Life Services Inc., and DHS.

"As a city and government, we have a duty to assist in helping to rebuild the lives of homeless men, woman [sic], and children," Camille Rivera, deputy commissioner of communications for DHS, wrote in the letter to Lentol. "Every borough, neighborhood and community district, as part of the City of New York, must do its part to address and assist the growing number of homeless families."

Lentol spokesman Edward Baker said Greenpoint is already oversaturated by homeless shelters, with the Community Board 1 area encompassing Williamsburg and Greenpoint already housing three, according to DHS.

Lentol blasted the city for not notifying the community earlier to discuss the plan, calling on officials to look at whether the new shelter follows the city's "Fair Share" criteria, which says the city must distribute community services equally.

"For more than 40 years we have been our brother’s keeper, and we continue to accept that responsibility on the condition that we are not being unfairly singled out to carry this burden," Lentol said in a letter to DHS last week. "Other communities are not carrying this same burden because Community Board 1 is unfairly carrying this load."

Board 1 chair Dealice Fuller said in a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio last week that while the board is not opposed to another shelter program, any plan needs to be vetted by locals first.

"These shelters must be carefully woven into communities and not smuggled in by dead of night," she said.

The new shelter follows DHS's emergency shelter plan, which requires seven days of notification to officials before opening, Baker said. The plan was implemented in July, when a shelter opening in Elmhurst prompted protests from locals after the former hostel was converted without notice.

The Clay Street residence will help relieve the record 57,665 individuals who are using city shelters, according to Rivera's letter. The number of homeless families have increased in the last year, with a nearly 10 percent jump — from 10,104 to 11,080, according to DHS statistics.

Home/Life Services will also provide social and re-housing services at the shelter.

“DHS faces real challenges to house our most vulnerable populations," agency spokesman Christopher Miller said in a statement. "As such, we must look at every viable site across the city to ensure our clients are stably housed.”

Home/Life Services declined to comment. The landlord did not return a request for comment.

Greenpoint locals have fiercely opposed homeless shelters in the past, forming a corporation to fight a 200-bed men's shelter that ultimately opened two years ago at 400 McGuinness Blvd.

Meanwhile, homeless advocates have long bemoaned the lack of services in Greenpoint. Last winter, a homeless man died in McGolrick Park amid cuts to funding.