The city is using yet another Sunset Park hotel to shelter the homeless, a move they made in the dead of night without consulting the community or giving proper notice, Sunset Parkers alleged at the last Community Board 7 meeting of the year.
“They’re not supposed to be in hotels, they’re supposed to be in shelters,” said Tim Murphy. “They’re taking them over,” he said of the neighborhood’s inns. “One by one, they’re becoming homeless family shelters.”
CB7 district manager Jeremy Laufer said that the Department of Homeless Services contacted the community board on Dec. 19 to tell members of its plan to begin filling the Brooklyn Way Hotel with homeless single men beginning the very next day, the agency confirmed.
The agency refused to confirm that the shelter would house single men, but spokeswoman Arianna Fishman did confirm that it is currently renting 22 of the hotel’s 99 rooms and anticipates filling the rest of the rooms by early next year.
Fishman said the city is using hotels as temporary, emergency shelters while it works on fulfilling the mayor’s recently-announced plan to convert homeless “cluster sites” into permanent affordable housing for homeless families.
She also suggested that the agency was doing CB7 a favor by giving a whole 24-hour’s notice, noting that when the city uses a hotel as emergency shelter space, the department technically doesn’t have to alert local officials until the day of move-in, and added that the city is under court order to provide shelter under emergency circumstances when there is not enough shelter space on any given night.
But the district manager said the problem is less about the short notice than the fact that the district already hosts six homeless shelters that house far more people — 340, to be exact — than the number of homeless in the area.
“We do more than our fair share when it comes to the number of people we are contributing from this community who go into the shelter system,” said Laufer.
Murphy said he was particularly irked that when Mayor DeBlasio held a town hall in the district with Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park) recently, and that neither the mayor, Menchaca, nor any locals raised the issue of the nabe’s saturation of hotels-turned-shelters, an omission that Murphy believes was arranged by Menchaca, who selected who got to ask questions.
“Nobody asked him a question about it, but it was orchestrated,” he said. “Carlos Menchaca pointed to the people to ask questions: softball question number one, softball number two.”
Menchaca was just as blindsided by the Fourth Avenue hotel shelter as the rest of the community, according to a spokesman. In a better-late-than-never statement, the councilman called on the mayor to return to Sunset Park and explain to residents face-to-face why his administration keeps ambushing their neighborhood with so many shelters, adding that DeBalsio is not fulfilling his promise in his 2017 plan to keep communities abreast of shelter plans.
“Establishing shelters in the dark of night breaks any possibility of trust between neighborhoods and an administration,” Menchaca said. “I call on Mayor DeBlasio to explain to the residents of Sunset Park why the Department of Homeless Services has failed to offer advance notice and community engagement.”
Laufer said that the community board plans to ask the Department of Homeless Services to meet with the community and address its concerns early next year. But he added that the mayor deserved to take some heat, too — especially because, in his days as a Park Slope pol, the mayor said the city should focus on preventing homelessness rather than opening emergency shelters in hotels, arguing that it ultimately cost the city less money to provide anti-eviction legal services.
“There used to be a councilman in the area who said he was going to close that loophole and not allow these hotels to open up,” Laufer said.
“His name is Bill DeBlasio.”