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City Admits Gowanus Super 8 Used for Homeless; Hotel Says it's 'Just Busy'

By Caroline Spivack | August 10, 2017 5:33pm | Updated on August 11, 2017 9:37am
 The Department of Homeless Services is renting 53 of 57 rooms at this Super 8 hotel on Third Avenue in Gowanus.
The Department of Homeless Services is renting 53 of 57 rooms at this Super 8 hotel on Third Avenue in Gowanus.
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DNAinfo/Caroline Spivack

GOWANUS — If you call the inexplicably busy Super 8 hotel on Third Avenue and ask if they have any homeless people living there, you'll get a flat-out "no."

But the Department of Homeless Services has a different story — the city is renting 53 of the 57 rooms at the Super 8 hotel on 267 Third Ave., between Union and President streets, to single, homeless men and has been since August 2015, DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn told DNAinfo New York this week.

On Tuesday, a receptionist, who declined to give her name, claimed that is not the case even when she was confronted with the city's confirmation.

"No, there are no homeless people staying here and if you want further comment speak with my manager," she said. "We used to have a family shelter here a few months ago but that stopped a few months ago. It’s just regular customers now."

She linked the sudden swell of occupants, who have booked up the hotel through mid-December, to simply being "busy." The hotel's general manager did not respond to requests for comment.

DHS spokesman McGinn said one other hotel in the area is being used to house homeless people but citing privacy reasons, declined to say which one.

Queens Councilman Eric Ulrich hopes to crack down on that type of discrepancy and on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require hotel owners inform patrons if they house the homeless and force inns contracted with DHS to visibly post signs stating such.

"The public has a right to know whether or not that hotel or that motel is also being used as a temporary homeless shelter," said Ulrich.

After this story was published DHS replied to DNAinfo's earlier request for comment with their reservations on the bill. “Any disclosure of confidential client information, including addresses where homeless New Yorkers may be sheltered, is a violation of Social Services Law that could put our clients at risk, including domestic violence survivors, as they work to stabilize their lives," McGinn wrote in the emailed statement. "While we are reviewing the legislation, we have significant concerns about the impact it could have on our homeless neighbors.” 

A surge of the city booking rooms for the homeless has peppered the five boroughs with inns standing in as shelters. An April report by Comptroller Scott Stringer showed that the number of rooms booked by the city jumped from 2,069 last October to 2,852 in February. Figures of homeless New Yorkers staying in hotels surged from 5,881 to 7,790 during that same period.

But a lack of notice by the city and hotel owners has prompted communities to rail against the facilities.

Vacationers are also left in the dark.

"Unfortunately, the location seems to have a contract with NYC public housing or is perhaps a shelter for women with small children," one hotel guest wrote last summer in a TripAdvisor review for the Gowanus Super 8. "I don't have a problem if the hotel is providing a valuable public resource, but I think it should be disclosed upfront for the general public in deciding where to stay on vacation."

Some locals have also taken notice of the inn's homeless residents and believe they could be linked to an uptick of folks slumped in the streets who appear to be on drugs and who've been spotted publicly urinating, said one long-time Gowanus resident who lives two blocks from the inn.

"At night it’s a totally different world here," said  Joann Amitrano, who lives in a three-family home on Carroll Street between Third and Fourth avenues. “I’ve found people laying in front of my property on drugs — it's become like the '80s in the last year. I don’t understand it since the hotel would give them a place to be, but I don’t think it’s people who are paying thousands a month to be here.”

Witnessing people collapsed on nearby streets has become a regular occurrence, according to another block local. 

"It's really bizarre," said Monica Reese. "I've noticed a lot more people who look like they're on drugs and need help when I come home from work lately. I've heard rumors that some homeless people are staying at the hotel and it makes me wonder."

Of the city's more than 60,000 homeless individuals, there are currently 308 who most recently lived in Community Board 6 — which includes Park Slope, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook — but the neighborhood has beds for only 282 people, according to DHS data.

Part of the city's plan to address the homeless crisis is to close all interim shelters at commercial hotels and cluster sites, and replace them with 90 new shelters across the city for a more localized approached that allows homeless New Yorkers to remain in the communities they last lived.

READ MORE: De Blasio's Shelter Plan Ignites Fears Across The Bronx

"As we implement our borough-based approach, we are ending the use of all cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities citywide, including the two commercial hotels in this district," wrote McGinn in an emailed statement, although he could not offer a specific timeline for when the two commercial hotels in Community Board 6 will be phased out.

The Park Slope area is slated for a boost of 250 shelter beds and locals and area politicians met with city officials in May and June to discuss the selection process. No specific location is being considered at the moment.