KIPS BAY — New peace officers and extra lighting are coming to the 30th Street men’s homeless shelter in response to increased complaints of lawlessness in the neighborhood.
The addition of six new officers at the 850-bed shelter comes after neighbors told of nasty encounters with aggressive panhandlers, open-air drug use and the occasional flasher.
Concerns became particularly acute in the spring when a resident of the shelter allegedly raped a woman in the bathroom of Turnmill Bar on E. 27th Street between Park and Lexington avenues.
The problem is due in part to an overconcentration of single, homeless men at the 400 E. 30th St. shelter, according to neighbor Lauren Pohl, who has rallied residents in Murray Hill and Kips Bay to confront the issue.
She started a Facebook group that's dedicated to the cause and has more than 600 members.
“The new lighting and peace officers is a nice start, but at the end of the day it’s still the same number of beds,” Pohl said.
Neighbors of the shelter are accustomed to having homeless facilities nearby but the situation has deteriorated in the past year, according to Pohl, who said she has lived in Murray Hill for six years.
“This isn’t a ‘not in my back yard’ thing because it’s always been in our back yard,” she said. “But something has changed recently. I’ve seen a major change in the last year.”
The new officers, assigned under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “NYC Safe” program, will join an existing force of 31 peace officers and about 30 private security guards. The new recruits will be assigned so that each shift will have an increased number of officers on patrol, a DHS spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman could not say exactly when the new officers would be deployed.
The officers, who have the power to arrest but do not carry guns, are tasked with patrolling the facility. In addition to increased manpower, new measures at the 30th Street shelter include Saturday patrols by two to three pairs of DHS officers who will walk the blocks surrounding the shelter, according to an agency representative.
NYPD officers have also begun patrolling the area around the shelter on three afternoons and evenings per week, DHS spokeswoman said.
In an effort to allay concerns, Councilman Dan Garodnick in June also allocated $50,000 to install new lighting outside the shelter, which Garodnick said he expects will happen sometime this fall.
Complaints to 311 about the homeless have risen sharply this year, with 20,242 calls made between Jan. 1 and Aug. 9 regarding a homeless person in need of assistance, in an emergency situation or living in an encampment, according to the mayor’s office.
If the 311 calls continue at that rate they could top off at more than 33,500 calls by the end of the year, compared with 25,357 in 2014 and 21,882 calls in 2013.
Speaking on a radio show on Tuesday morning, de Blasio blamed the rise in homelessness in New York on structural inequality.
“We are dealing with a reality that makes previous problems look small because it is more structural now,” de Blasio said, answering listener calls on the Brian Lehrer Show.
“The ‘Tale of Two Cities’ is much deeper than it was even five or 10 years ago.”