PARK SLOPE — Mayor Bill de Blasio's home turf will get about 250 new shelter beds as part of the city's response to skyrocketing homelessness, a Department of Homeless Services spokesman said Friday.
DHS confirmed the news hours after de Blasio told WNYC listeners that Community Board 6 — which includes his home neighborhood of Park Slope as well as Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook — would expand its homeless shelter capacity under the city's plan to open 90 new shelters to house 2,500 people over the next five years.
De Blasio was responding to a caller on the Brian Lehrer show who complained that Crown Heights is "shouldering most of the burden" of new homeless shelters, while wealthier Park Slope isn't doing its fair share.
De Blasio responded that his 11th Street rowhouse in Park Slope is just a few blocks from the CAMBA women's shelter on 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, and a short trip from another unpopular public facility — a waste transfer station that will soon receive 1,600 tons of garbage a day.
"Every community has to be part of the solution," de Blasio said. "In fact, the community board I come from — Community Board 6 in Brooklyn — under our plan will see an increase in homeless shelter capacity to align to the number of people who come from the community board who are in our shelter system."
Locals protesting new shelters in Crown Heights and other parts of the city have frequently questioned why wealthier neighborhoods such as Park Slope don't host more shelters. Protesters from Queens even marched outside HRA Commissioner Steven Banks' home in Windsor Terrace, which is also a short distance from the CAMBA shelter.
The city's plan to address record numbers of homeless aims to close all "cluster sites" and commercial hotel shelter sites citywide and replace them with 90 new Department of Homeless Services facilities to open in all community districts. The "borough-based" initiative aims to house homeless New Yorkers in the neighborhoods where they last lived, allowing them to remain close to family, schools, houses of worship and others support networks, the city has said.
"Our plan here is quite straightforward," de Blasio said Friday on WNYC. "We want to end decades of a broken policy of folks who were homeless being sent all over the city, being cut off from their roots, from their child’s school, from their house of worship, from their family, from their friends."
There are currently 347 homeless New Yorkers who hail from Community Board 6, according to DHS, but the neighborhood has beds for only 282 people.
The CAMBA women's shelter on 14th Street and Eighth Avenue expanded in 2013 to house 100 women with mental illness and addiction problems. An additional 172 homeless live in a commercial hotel, the DHS spokesman said. Spokesman Isaac McGinn declined to provide the exact location of that hotel, citing privacy concerns.
Because the city plans to end the use of commercial hotels as shelters, the city will need to identify space for additional shelter beds — roughly 250 — elsewhere in Community Board 6 to meet the needs of homeless people from the area.
The exact location or timeline for that expansion has yet to be determined, the DHS spokesman said.
"Our plan gives our homeless neighbors, who come from every community in New York City, the opportunity to be sheltered closer to their support networks and home communities," said mayoral spokeswoman Jaclyn Rothenberg. "The mayor's neighborhood of Park Slope has a need for space and will of course be playing a role in this citywide responsibility."
The city has said it will notify community boards 30 days in advance when new shelters are planned for their districts.
Community Board 6 chairman Sayar Lonial said the board wasn’t aware of any plans to increase homeless beds locally in the immediate future, but stands ready to support the city in its efforts.
[W]e in [Brooklyn Community District 6] much like all communities throughout the city, understand that the increase in homelessness in NYC is an issue that each of us must look at very seriously and help to solve or at the very least ameliorate,” Lonial told DNAinfo New York. “We look forward to hearing more details from the Mayor's office on his plans and will reserve judgment on the merits until we have seen that plan.”
Lonial noted that CB6 supported the expansion of the CAMBA women’s shelter, calling it a “well-run program with strong community linkages.”
There were 59,921 New Yorkers living in homeless shelters as of Wednesday, of which 22,388 were children, according to the latest figures from the Department of Homeless Services.