Notes From The Joint Public Safety/Human Services Committee, Part III: Wrapping It Up
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic
After much toiling I have managed upload a little more footage. Methinks moving forward I will continue adding have added them to this post* for the sake of simplifying an already nightmarish problem (in other words: check back!). Otherwise, I have also decided to use this post to answer a reader question and air my feelings on this subject. Without further ado, here we go!
*NEW September 30, 2010* A Clay Street Resident Speaks
*NEW September 30, 2010* An Old School Greenpointer Speaks— About The Greenpoint Hotel, Mostly
Note: despite his cantankerous nature I rather liked this guy. If for no reason because he was/is responsible for this. When I asked him about it he told me there was a woman who constantly let her poodles crap on his flowers.
*NEW September 30, 2010* George Diaz Speaks
*NEW September 30, 2010* Jennifer of the Greenpoint Business Association Speaks
Observation: Jennifer has clearly not read my blog. Or bothered to follow— much less attend— Community Board meetings. Had she done any of the previous she’d know the new owner of the “Hotel” has attended a Human Services Subcommittee meeting, wants help from the police and made it pretty well known he wants to hear from local residents. So it goes.
*NEW September 30, 2010* A Rebuttal & Rundown of the proposed Shelter’s P’s & Q’s (including a 10:00 p.m. curfew)
Ann Kansfield of the Greenpoint Reformed Church Speaks
A Representative from the Department of Homeless Services Responds
The Subject Of Property Values Arises
A Representative of Nydia Velazquez Office Speaks
Community Board 1 Member Esteban Duran Speaks
Note: I can’t argue with him, save perhaps adding that while New York City’s track record for addressing homelessness might be subject to debate, this administration’s success in creating homelessness is difficult to dispute!
A Neighbor of the Greenpoint Hotel Speaks & Very Fascinating Diatribe About Bicycle Brake Theft and Cab Vandalism Ensues (among other things)
Observation: This guy was the only one who seemed to faze the DHS Representative, which, as a friend of mine noted:
Must have been the Captain of his High School Debate Team.
The End (Or: My Flipcam runs out of memory but not before Georgie Diaz gets the DHS Representative to assure him that he is wiling to have Mr. Diaz pay him a personal visit lest any issues with this shelter arise)
Observation: The laughter you hear comes from people who know Mr. Diaz.
A Reader Question
As I have previously mentioned I received a question from a reader on Franklin Street resident. She writes:
Thank you for the information on the homeless shelter and the meeting. I could not attend last night. Do you happen to know if the homeless shelter is a transitional place for recently released male inmates? That would concern me. Or is it a homeless shelter for those needing temporary assistance while finding a home? Did the folks at the meeting talk about who will be living there?
First up, I am not an expert of such matters— and Monday’s meeting was not exactly illuminating. Here’s what we were told: the proposed shelter is for homeless single men. Aside from a passing mention of some work-fare kind of arrangement, a 10:00 p.m. curfew and providing security nothing else was really said. Would I rule out that there will be ex-convicts in this group? Absolutely not.
An Op-Ed From Yours Truly
In closing and despite the fact I have already published the following (albeit via comments), my thoughts on the matter, I want to feature to feature it in a proper blog post— and add a few more observations. Here we go.
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 and 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 said this shelter will help our local homeless problem. How? Once again: 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 would 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. This 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 and 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.
After the writing the previous I decided to go for a walk. It was a particularly atrocious derelict construction site that it hit me:
Greenpoint was promised a number of things during the now infamous rezone. Five years later a number— if not most— of these things have yet to happen. Do we have any new park space? For all intents and purposes: NO. Affordable housing? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. But we do have plenty of Bloomblight and “luxury apartments”! And now we face the prospect of a homeless shelter. Am I the only person who finds this wretchedly comical?
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that this makes me very, VERY angry. Not only should the city keep its promises before it demands anything else from this community, but by effectively enabling HELP USA to (seemingly) evade any semblance of community process/transparency/feedback it is a big slap in the face to the very people— many of whom were present Monday night, I will add— who made this community a place where people like me (and you) want to live in the first place. They— we— deserve better than this.
*Save one. That being what the Chair of Community Board 1, Christopher Olechowski, has to say. You can find that one here. This way all the videos will be in some semblance of chronological order.
P.S.: Those of you who object to this proposed shelter will probably be interested to know there is a petition in the works. As I understand it, it has just shy of 500 signatures to date and is being collected by Community Board 1. To download a printable version of this petition (for distribution and signing) click here.