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Judge Temporarily Halts Homeless Shelter Opening in Crown Heights

By Rachel Holliday Smith | March 24, 2017 2:10pm | Updated on March 26, 2017 4:51pm
 A resident holds up a sign March 15 telling the city to enforce the
A resident holds up a sign March 15 telling the city to enforce the "Fair Share" law at a meeting about a men's homeless shelter to city intends to open soon at 1173 Bergen St. in Crown Heights.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — A judge Friday issued an order to delay the opening of a controversial homeless shelter, pausing the open date at least until another judge can decide next week whether the project should go forward.

Judge Paul Wooten of Brooklyn Supreme Court granted the temporary restraining order on the opening of a men’s shelter at 1173 Bergen St., but said the facility’s operator, CORE Services, can continue working to complete the shelter, which the city hopes to open sometime next week.

The decision stems from a petition filed Wednesday by two Crown Heights block associations and dozens of residents whose attorney, Jacqueline McMickens, told the judge that the Bergen Street building adds more than 100 beds for homeless men to a neighborhood already “burdened by shelter facilities.”

The lawyer for the city, Amy McCamphill, argued there was an urgent need to open the shelter because of an "increasing and unprecedented demand” for shelter beds. She added that the citywide shelter vacancy rate this week was 0.3 percent, or about 40 beds.

But Wooten decided a delay until Tuesday would have no great effect and said arguments from both sides will be heard by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Katherine Levine at a hearing at noon Tuesday. She will decide whether or not to grant an injunction, which could delay the opening more significantly.

Department of Homeless Services spokesman Isaac McGinn said, despite Friday's ruling, the city is planning to open the shelter next week.

"We are confident that the court on Tuesday will recognize our vital need for these additional beds and intend to move clients in as soon as possible so that they can stabilize their lives," he said in a statement.

The shelter on Bergen Street has faced serious backlash from its neighbors since the city announced the opening last month. The 106-bed shelter would house men over the age of 62.

The facility would be one of the first of 90 new homeless shelters slated to open citywide under a plan by Mayor de Blasio to overhaul the Department of Homeless Services. Two of those 90 have opened so far: a shelter serving LGBTQ young people in The Bronx and a women’s shelter in Prospect Heights, DHS said.

The mayor’s plan intends to close all “cluster” and hotel sites currently used to house homeless residents and families, replacing them with the 90 new shelters in the hopes of reducing the record-high homeless population of 60,000 people by 2,500 in five years, the city has said.