From The New York Shitty Inbox: Last Night’s Meeting

September 28, 2010 by
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

As I am (still) wrangling with YouTube and generally pulling my hair out I received a very thoughtful email from a reader who attended last night’s meeting. We’ll call him “T”. He writes:

I found this meeting (my first CB1 meeting) both interesting and depressing.  The amount of misdirected or premature anger based on pure conjecture, misunderstanding, class prejudice, assumption and fear was shocking.  Maybe because I haven’t been intimately involved with the debate up to this point.  In any event, I drew a couple of conclusions:  1) it’s mostly the craphole that is the Greenpoint Hotel and the very legitimate issue of the indigent Polish alcoholic population that generates the fear and the frustration and people are projecting that onto this process; and, 2) that first point is the fault of the dbags at HELP USA who refuse to actually come down and help alleviate these fears or at least be part of the process.  So, seems to me HELP USA is the culprit in most of this.  At least DHS has the courage to come down and explain the process, regardless of whether the community is calm enough to actually listen to it and understand it.  Has there been a history here of these hearings happening and then DHS just completely ignoring the feelings and opinions of the community or is the assumption that DHS doesn’t care and has already approved this thing (an opinion which the dude in front of me seemed to be fastened on) based on nothing but the usual boogeymen?  Because I’m willing to give DHS the benefit of the doubt on this based on the actual words coming out of the rep’s mouth but if others know something based on FACT that I don’t know, I’d love to hear it.

First off, I am VERY happy I motivated T to attend this meeting. If there is one thing I would like this site to do (other than amuse and entertain) it is to get my readership more involved with what’s going on in this— our— community. As for his points, they’re well founded. But for the time being I would like to focus on this question:

Has there been a history here of these hearings happening and then DHS just completely ignoring the feelings and opinions of the community or is the assumption that DHS doesn’t care and has already approved this thing (an opinion which the dude in front of me seemed to be fastened on) based on nothing but the usual boogeymen?  Because I’m willing to give DHS the benefit of the doubt on this based on the actual words coming out of the rep’s mouth but if others know something based on FACT that I don’t know, I’d love to hear it.

I suspect many an old(er) timer will back me up when I write that Greenpoint has a long history of being a “dumping ground” for things other people do not want in their backyard. The Public Safety Chair himself, Mr. Kalita, made light of this. He— along with Chairman Olechowski— also made it clear that the Community Board only has an advisory opinion when it comes to this and numerous other neighborhood concerns. Liquor licenses are one such example and, yes, the Community Board— which is ostensibly the voice of the community— has been overruled. This has fostered a certain level of cynicism— if not outright rage— in the community they try serve. Now factor in the shenanigans at the Greenpoint Hotel and the fact that HELP USA seems to be unwilling to meet the very public to whom they will be held accountable if (or when) this shelter comes to pass and you get the idea: a lot of angry Greenpointers. Methinks this is largely what T saw last night. For the time being I will leave my opinions/observations at that. However, I would really like it if someone (else) would step up to the plate and address T’s questions/concerns. Anyone?

Miss Heather

Comments

4 Comments on From The New York Shitty Inbox: Last Night’s Meeting

  1. SpillConspirator on Tue, 28th Sep 2010 9:55 pm
  2. Last night, I asked if an RFP has been issued for this project. They answered yes. That makes their intention pretty clear. This community was only lucky that the community board reached out to a group of community residents that notified others. The agency is NOT doing us a favor by showing up. They were caught. Over the years, overseeing city agencies have been showing to represent unwanted developers or polluters or projects. That’s not their place. It is becoming a common practice. Our community however, has developed it’s own practice of rejecting city agencies that do that. As we should.
    Our community deserves to be treated with respect. We’ve worked too hard and too long for projects and developers to impact us without the respect of being brought to the table. We shouldn’t have to find out by accident and… react. It’s bound to be a bad reaction, each time that happens.

  3. missheather on Wed, 29th Sep 2010 9:28 am
  4. Having given the evening some thought (and I needed some time to think about this because quite frankly I was pretty overwhelmed):

    1. The presentation by DHS really wasn’t a presentation at all. If I may offer some constructive criticism it would have been that DHS give an actual presentation showing people how this process works and then lead into a discussion about the proposed shelter for 400 McGuinness. This would have put everyone on the same page eliminated a lot of duplicate questions. What’s more, when I have someone tell me (as this rep did) that studies have shown that a homeless shelter will not (or will positively) effect property values (to cite an example) I am more than a little skeptical. Show me the study. They saw this shelter will help our local homeless problem. How? Show me.
    2. Where the hell is HELP USA? They have been invited to speak and have declined. Repeatedly. This would indicate to me that they either do not care about the people whose lives will be impacted by this shelter— or that they have something to hide. Sorry, but merely taking our City Councilman on a tour of another shelter (and a women’s shelter at that) is not good enough.
    3. If my memory serves me correctly the reason HELP USA declined to speak is because this RFP is under consideration. Yet, the reason we had the hearing is so people could tender their two cents/concerns about it. How, may I ask, are people able to do that if they do not know the specifics of said proposed shelter? This strikes me as not only being ludicrous, but it will only make people feel more powerless/in the dark (and in the clarity of hindsight I think this was the root of a lot of the anger we saw that night) and facilitate even more speculation.

    The deal is this (and I am going to be brutally honest): I am not happy about 200 homeless men residing a few blocks from my home. I cannot think of many people who embrace this prospect. While I am very willing to understand some of the people this shelter would serve are probably good people who need a leg up, the fact is others are on (as one attendee put it) on “the fringe of society” for a reason. I am talking about people who have serious problems— and may be prone to violence. I am hardly the kind of person who sees a bogeyman around every corner. I am simply crunching the numbers— and the fact is with 200 men the odds are you are going to have some bad apples. Which brings me to the subject of location…

    Contrary to what the Human Services chair said, this shelter would not be in the middle of a residential community. Its location (in my opinion) is more problematic: it is located in a rather secluded area which straddles both an industrial and residential corridor. As crazy as it may sound, I would feel more comfortable if this proposed shelter were to be located somewhere with more foot traffic/eyes on the street. There are a lot of places someone with nefarious purposes can (for wont of a better term) “hide” in this area. In addition (and I write this as someone who has lived on Clay Street) I too have concerns about its proximity to the Hotel. While I probably take a much more moderate position on this establishment (by virtue of the fact in the early 2000′s it was much worse and I know someone who lives there. Not everyone who lives there is bad.) the fact is there are still problematic tenants there. I live and work close to this hotel. I know who these men are— if not by name— and last weekend I saw one such resident harangue a senior citizen, quite menacingly, on the street. The gentleman was clearly unbalanced. I guess what I am trying to say is I have to wonder exactly how the population of this proposed shelter is going to mix with people such as this gentleman. And mix they will. I see the potential for serious trouble in this respect and I do not find the fact we were given no details whatsoever about what security measures will be put in place at this shelter very reassuring.

    I could go on and on. But I keep coming back to one thing: where’s HELP USA? They alone are in the position to inform our community as to the shelter they have proposed and when asked to do so— repeatedly, I would like to add— they have declined. In other words, my biggest issues are a lack of transparency and a seeming unwillingness to engage the members of the community regarding a project that will undoubtedly impact their quality of life. How can I honestly believe (as was reiterated over an over Monday night) this shelter is going to help serve the local homeless population here if they very entity behind said shelter won’t have a dialogue with the very community where said homeless people are located? The answer is I can’t and I don’t believe them.

  5. eaglestreeter on Wed, 29th Sep 2010 10:47 am
  6. Both comments above are very well put and I agree with nearly everything said. I also do not want 200 homeless men residing a few blocks from my home. I also agree that putting this place a block from a bridge overpass, a dead end, and an obviously NON-residential area is playing with fire. I also agree that the handling of the interaction with the community by HELP USA has been both disingenuous as well as disrespectful. However, I have one over-riding question, which can probably never be answered satisfactorily: where exactly DO you put a shelter for 200 men? Because 200 of these men on the streets is an even bigger problem. So, what community is there out there that is going to be like ‘Oh sure we’d love to have them!’ You’d think that given that reality, HELP USA would be bending over backwards to be holding the community’s hand at every step.

  7. missheather on Wed, 29th Sep 2010 10:15 pm
  8. @eagle streeter: I for one think it would be very interesting to see where homeless intake centers are currently located (and in so doing learn where they are not located). And perhaps make a field trip to HELP USA’s facility in Brownsville? I have the time. Perhaps I will?

    You wrote: However, I have one over-riding question, which can probably never be answered satisfactorily: where exactly DO you put a shelter for 200 men? Because 200 of these men on the streets is an even bigger problem.

    I wish I knew the answer, but I that has not been figured out yet. As I have said before: my biggest issue is how HELP USA seems to be avoiding the very people whose community will be affected by this shelter. We have questions and concerns and they deserve to be heard. It is for this reason alone I oppose this shelter.

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