Brooklyn Residents Debate Over Construction of Two 4th Avenue Family Shelters

Brooklyn Residents Debate Over Construction of Two 4th Avenue Family Shelters

While many are thrilled to assist the homeless in support of Mayor de Blasio’s initiative, some residents feel differently.

Brooklyn’s 4th Avenue will soon become the home for two new homeless shelters, according to an article written for the Bklyner–and while many would consider this optimistic news, not everyone is thrilled about it. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City” initiative, 70 percent of shelter residents in New York City are families, making up the ”invisible majority” of New York City’s homelessness crisis. In an effort to support this initiative, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is enlisting Women In Need (WIN) to operate the two future homeless shelters.

The NYC Administrative Services released details from contracts between DHS and WIN for the construction of the homeless shelters on 535 and 555 4th Avenue, which the city will pay $261,591,165 for. These contracts for the 535 and 555 4th Avenue shelters will be valid from Sept 1, 2019- June 30, 2028, and Dec 1, 2019- June 30, 2028, respectively.

Controversy has arisen at the news of constructing two homeless shelters on the same street, especially amongst local residents living near the locations. Neighbors have written a petition on change.org against the 4th Avenue Homeless Shelters that has already received over 1,000 signatures.

“We support the city’s efforts to house the homeless,” the petition says, ”but we believe that locating two large buildings for the homeless on two adjacent blocks is not fair to our community. By means of this petition, we would like to voice our opposition to the shelters as they are currently planned.”

The petition went even further to state that portions of 4th Avenue are still at a vulnerable stage in development, meaning that the establishment of two adjacent homeless shelters would jeopardize commercial businesses and residential housing in the neighborhood.

“P.S. 124, adjacent to the proposed homeless housing, is a struggling school, in which only a small percentage of parents are able to assist the P.T.A,” the petition says. “A large influx of high needs children will further strain the school’s resources. Moreover, the transient nature of the population will impede parental commitment to the local schools.”

Council Member Lander’s office stated that the average stay for a family in an NYC DHS shelter is 15 months, and while no time limit is set, a housing placement staff works with the families to find a permanent home.

“My family and I live around the corner from these shelters (we’re on 13th Street, between 4th & 5th Avenues),” Council Member Lander wrote in a FAQ on the 535 and 555 4th Avenue shelters. “We care about what happens here, just like you and your families do. So while I understand there’s anger at me, and suspicion of my motives (it’s a time of very low trust in government, that’s for certain), I promise that I’m approaching this as a neighbor, just like you. We all want to make sure our neighborhood is safe and welcoming, with locally-owned small businesses and great schools, reflective of our shared values, a wonderful place for our families to thrive. I pledge to keep working hard toward those goals.”

While many individuals have reservations that the shelters might negatively impact their local community, not everyone feels this strong sense of opposition against the establishment of both homeless shelters.

After the petitioning of construction for the shelters on 4th Avenue, another petition was started on change.org in support for the family shelters in Park Slope, which has already garnered over 1,000 signatures as well.

The petition opposed the previous one by stating that residents living near the shelters are confident that WIN will help homeless families in need of support rebuild their lives. As for the schooling issue, the petition stated that nearby schools would not be overburdened if the shelters were built because the majority of families residing in the temporary shelter would choose to keep their kids in the schools they were enrolled in at the time of their displacement.

“The larger community with means can help the families in these shelters get back on their feet by volunteering, providing job opportunities, participating in the Community Advisory Group that WIN will establish, and/or donating goods to the shelters,” the petition says. “…[we] look forward to finding opportunities to support the families with children at these shelters. We believe that homelessness is an issue that society can help address for the common good.”