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Emergency Responders Called to Chelsea Shelter Nearly 1,900 Times This Year

By Heather Holland | December 15, 2014 7:40am
  Police were called to the BRC Shelter on West 25th Street 1,867 times from Jan. 1 to Nov. 10, 2014, police records show.
Police were called to the BRC Shelter on West 25th Street 1,867 times from Jan. 1 to Nov. 10, 2014, police records show.
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DNAinfo/Heather Holland

CHELSEA — Emergency responders were called to a controversial Chelsea homeless shelter more than 1,800 times in the first 10 months of this year, police records show.

The NYPD responded to 1,867 911 calls at the Bowery Residents' Committee shelter at 127 W. 25th St. from Jan. 1 to Nov. 10, 2014 — an average of about six calls per day, according to records DNAinfo New York obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.

In 31 of the cases, police arrested people at the shelter for crimes including assault and drug possession, according to the list of radio runs provided by the NYPD.

More than 500 of the 911 calls were for ambulances that took people to local hospitals in serious condition, and 357 of the calls were for emotionally disturbed people, according to the documents.

In comparison, DNAinfo reported in September that police were called 1,800 times to a women's shelter in Downtown Brooklyn over 11 years.

shelter 911 calls

The 328-bed BRC shelter opened in 2011 and provides housing and assistance programs for homeless men, including those with mental illnesses and substance abuse issues. Even before it opened, elected officials and residents were concerned about its size.

Christine Berthet, chairwoman of Community Board 4, was alarmed when told of the number of 911 calls at the shelter this year.

"It's very difficult to manage such a large organization," said Berthet, who has advocated for increased security on BRC's block since the shelter opened.

"It definitely spills over to the streets. It spills over the block. It spills over the whole neighborhood," she added. "It's a major concern. People are scared."

Business owners and residents say the shelter has turned West 25th Street into a "war zone," with homeless men harassing passersby and urinating and vomiting on the stoops of nearby homes.

Arrests at the shelter this year include a man who was caught with 148 bags of heroin in May and another man who attacked a man with his crutches in August, according to police reports.

"[The 911 numbers] confirm the lack of safety by BRC inside the facility, to say nothing of the episodes outside," said Jeff Lazarus, a resident on the block.  "There’s a callous disregard for residents and neighbors alike."

BRC did not respond to a request for comment.

To improve safety at the BRC shelter, the Department of Homeless Services stationed two dozen peace officers there and installed x-ray machines and metal detectors in October.

"DHS is dedicated to the safety of its clients, staff and the surrounding community and beginning in mid-October has worked with the provider agency to substantially increase security resources at this site," DHS spokesman Christopher Miller said.

But 911 calls continued after the new security measures were installed, with 58 of the calls happening in the first 10 days of November, records show.

Some residents said they’re concerned that BRC is relying too much on emergency services to take care of incidents happening inside the facility.

“We have noticed a lot of [emergency] traffic that stops at the shelter,” said Carla Nordstrom, a 20-year resident of West 25th Street. “We wonder why provisions are not made to deal with these situations in-house.”