Fire victims moved into Oak Hotel

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At least two of the people now residing at the old Oak Hotel on East 12th street are the recent victims of a devastating fire in Bay Ridge, this paper has learned.

Residents living close to the building at 800 East 12th Street have been wondering about their new neighbors ever since it became known that the city contracted with an organization called Common Ground to house homeless men and women at the site.

Upset neighbors -- fearing that they might now be sharing their community with convicted sex offenders and other potentially dangerous individuals -- packed the offices of Community Board 14 last month in an effort to get some answers.

Common Ground, however, has steadfastly refused to divulge any information about the background of their clients, citing confidentiality concerns.

In a letter to Community Board 14, Amie Pospisil, Common Ground’s director of Outreach and Housing Placement, said, “It is not our intention to place anyone here who is a sex offender and internally we would make the decision not to place someone here who is a sex offender if we are aware of their status.”

As a result of last month’s emergency meeting of concerned residents, Community Board 14 says that city officials and the landlord of the East 12th Street property have been very responsive to neighborhood concerns.

“The mayor’s office told me two of the tenants are from a Bay Ridge fire sent over by HPD [Department of Housing Preservation & Developmen­t],” Community Board 14 District Manager Doris Ortiz said.

In addition, Ortiz says that the owner of 800 East 12th Street has given police keys to the building in response to police requests for “vertical patrols.”

“Everyone is working together,” Ortiz said. “The landlord is bending over backwards.”

Common Ground is renting out 12 units inside the East 12th Street building, but it remains unclear if they intend to try and utilize the other 18 available units.

“Our agreement with DHS [Department of Homeless Services] was only for these 12 units,” Common Ground Director of Communications Evan C. McLaughlin told this newspaper. “This is as far as we’ve gotten.”

According to officials, staffers check in on residents at the 12th Street building three times daily as part of regular rounds.

Common Ground operates in both Brooklyn and Queens and together with Catholic Charities maintains a staff of 40.

“We have clients who are on the street, in YMCAs, in permanent housing, in safe havens, etc.” McLaughlin said.

Pospisil has assured Community Board 14 that criminal behavior will not be tolerated at the site and if necessary, residents will be removed and placed in another facility.

“If we need to follow up with another meeting we will,” Ortiz said.

Updated 3:34 pm, October 19, 2011
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