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Youth Loft Hostel Closing to Make Way for Homeless Shelter, City Says

By Gwynne Hogan | August 4, 2016 1:50pm | Updated on August 4, 2016 6:11pm
 New York Loft Hostel will close after August 15 to make way for a 140-bed shelter. 
New York Loft Hostel will close after August 15 to make way for a 140-bed shelter. 
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Facebook/New York Loft Hostel

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — The city is converting a European-style hostel to a shelter with little notice to the community— the second accommodation in the area this year to be re-purposed for the city's homeless population.

New York Loft Hostel, at 249 Varet St., which boasts the slogan "Welcome to fabulous," will stop accepting reservations on Aug. 15 after six years of catering to tourists, according to workers there, and will soon make way for an 140-bed homeless shelter, Bushwick Daily first reported.

The shelter will house men over the age of 55 and will open at some point in August, the Department of Homeless Services confirmed. No registered sex offenders will live at the location, which is a block away from the Williamsburg Charter High School.

The nonprofit Project Renewal will manage operations and all men will have a 10 p.m. curfew. Project Renewal is also in charge of leasing the building or purchasing it from its current owner, according to DHS spokeswoman Lauren Gray.

Chair of the local Community Board 1 Dealice Fuller said that the Department of Homeless Services never reached out about the Varet Street shelter, though Gray said a meeting had been called to discuss the shelter in July with local elected officials and some community members.

Still some neighbors of the New York Loft Hostel said they'd heard rumors that it was going to be turned into a drug treatment facility, but received no official warning from city officials or the hostel's owner and never hear about the July meeting.

“They keep in silence, they do this [behind] our back,”  said Anguy Pacini, co-owner of Ange Noir, a cafe next to the Loft Hostel, who'd been drawn to the location in part because of its proximity to the hostel.

"We came here, we invested our money, we work every day, [we've] had no holiday in five years and what's happening in one month when they open?" he said.

"In our mind, we lose everything."

In May, a similar situation developed on Beaver Street, in Bushwick, where the Department of Homeless Services failed to notify local politicians or the community board that they would begin renting out 70 beds for homeless men in a newly-built boutique hotel.

Months after they started renting out rooms, DHS officials reluctantly admitted they were using the building as a shelter.

A manager at New York Loft Hostel who declined to give her name said they planned on reopening in about a year's time at a nearby location, though she wouldn't say exactly where.

As of June, the Coalition for the Homeless estimates there around 60,000 homeless New Yorkers sleeping in city shelters, in what the city describes as an "affordable housing crisis."

Mitchell Netburn, the CEO of Project Renewal, said that the facility will have on-site medical and psychiatric care and occupational therapy.

"Project Renewal has helped New Yorkers who are homeless to renew their lives with health, homes and jobs," Netburn said. "We look forward to bringing our proven programs to the vulnerable population of homeless men over the age of 55 who will be living at the Varet Street Shelter."