Notes From The Respite Center Community “Forum”

January 24, 2013 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

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NOTE/CAVEAT: It was agreed that any/all press (including “blogs”) refrain from posting commentary from the attendees present. I intend to respect this.* However, there was plenty of very informative information tendered by Councilman Levin, Rami Metal, representatives of the Department of Homeless Services, Common Ground and Pastors Kansfield and Aull. This I will endeavor to share. For the sake of simplicity I have opted to organize the two hours worth of “discussion” by topic. If there is anything I missed or mistook, please let me know via comments!

Exactly how did this facility come into being?

The Greenpoint Homeless Task Force

It was explained to everyone present (albeit in a discontinuous fashion) this respite shelter is the culmination of several years of work on the part of a number of people. Mr. Levin’s “right hand man”, Rami Metal, in his previous capacity as the same under David Yassky (Levin’s predecessor) started something called the Greenpoint Homeless Task Force. He did so because he was disturbed by the number of homeless men residing in our public spaces (parks) and waterfront. This body, which includes employees of Outreach, the 94th Precinct, The Department of Health (because a number of our homeless have issues with addiction), the Parks Department (because that is where Greenpoint’s homeless tend to congregate/live), among many others came together with the common goal of addressing Greenpoint’s homeless problem.

The first step in this process was actually identifying exactly how many homeless (men) there are in Greenpoint and learn who they are. To this end Common Ground was brought in. For those of you who are not in the know, Common Ground has a contract with our fair city and does all of its homeless outreach. INTERESTING FACT/ASIDE: one can call 311 and (for wont of a nicer way of putting it) alert the city of a homeless person in his/her community. The operator will ask the caller to give a detailed description and an outreach team will be dispatched within two hours. Outreach discerned that there are fifteen bone fide homeless individuals in Greenpoint and got to know them. Presently ten of these men are using the respite center at the Greenpoint Reformed Church on a daily basis. In other words: this respite center is not seeing a “revolving door” in terms of occupancy— but I am getting ahead of myself.

Communication with the Department of Homeless Services

Upon entering office Councilman Levin took up the matter of creating a shelter (and I am using the term quite loosely) for these individuals with the head of the Department of Homeless Services: Robert Hess. He seemed amenable to the idea and stated if a location could be found for such a facility, he would fund it. However, Mr. Hess was replaced by (the current head) Seth Diamond. He did not seem as enthusiastic so the matter was tabled.

This changed once it became apparent that at least one homeless man a year was dying due to hypothermia for wont of a safe, warm place to sleep. The rather brutal assault which came to pass in McCarren Park last summer also made it clear something needed to be done. So the plans for a respite center were made a priority.

Initially the Church of the Ascension was to be the location for this facility. Reverend Merz negotiated with the Department of Homeless Services and Common Ground (among others) an agreement was made in regards to funding and it seemed to be a “go”. However, Mr. Merz had to withdraw. His reason for doing so was a very sound one: he had a contract pending with a developer to utilize unused FAR for the “public hall” of his church. Given that churches in general are strapped for cash, this makes sense. However due to this turn of events, he could not obligate to the six month minimum contract as required by the Department of Homeless Services. He had to withdraw. Thus, it was “shopped around” to other churches in our community. The Greenpoint Reformed Church, despite serious trepidation (as was made quite clear by Ms. Kansfield and especially Ms. Aull), stepped up to the plate.

The final details for the respite shelter were finessed “two to three weeks” before Hurricane Sandy hit. The Nor’Easter which followed pushed the timetable forward. Thus, this facility was opened November 18th— apparently without Mr. Levin’s knowledge. However, the Greenpoint Reformed Church did announce it on their site. The contract they have (via Common Ground— the Department of Homeless Services cannot dispense funds directly to a religious organization) runs through June 2013 and it was made explicit therein that the Greenpoint Reformed Church has “veto power” over who can and more importantly— who cannot— “reside” at this respite shelter. Councilman Levin made repeatedly clear he was very apologetic as to the lack of awareness raising on his part. He claimed total responsibility and hoped (as did the other representatives present) that there will hopefully be better communication moving forward.

Exactly how does this “respite shelter” work?

First, let’s consider how it is different than 400 McGuinness. As a Department of Homeless Services representative explained (and this is keeping it very simple): there are shelters such as BRC’s assessment facility at 400 McGuinness (which are part of larger “system”) and ancillary shelters which are geared towards what she called “street homeless”. The objectives of both are the same: to provide homeless individuals shelter, treatment and, ultimately, permanent housing (more often than not, in SROs**).

The difference lies (at least in terms of the respite center at the Greenpoint Reformed Church) in methodology. More specifically, the latter is local in scope and seeks to house individuals who are unwilling and unable to enter the “traditional” shelter system. The reasons for this are many. As it pertains to the respite center at the Greenpoint Reformed Church, the men they serve have language “issues” (READ: as Polish immigrants, they do not speak English fluently) and have addiction problems (alcoholism, mostly). While these men have “priority” in terms of shelter at BRC’s facility at 400 McGuinness (which assesses homeless men from the city in general), they have not elected to use it. Entering a shelter is purely voluntary; it cannot be forced. Like I previously wrote: the needs of these individuals are very specific and as such this respite shelter was created to address them.

The “nuts and bolts”

The respite center at the Greenpoint Reformed Church is staffed by two employees from Common Ground. As I previously stated, this is the organization which has been contracted by the city to do homeless outreach. They are the operators of this facility. Common Ground staff meet the ten homeless men in question at Greenpoint Avenue and Manhattan Avenue every evening at 9:00 p.m. They escort these fellows to the shelter. After dinner is served the beds are rolled out and they go to sleep. The employees stay with them. The following morning (at 5:40 a.m.), they escort these men back to Greenpoint Avenue and Manhattan Avenue. It was also noted they do patrols of Milton Street (between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street) to ensure there is no malingering/”trouble”.

Does this respite shelter have a bathroom? (Because this being New York Shitty it deserves its own heading)

Yes it does! What’s more, the Department of Homeless Services has approved funding for a shower. The rationale for this is quite simple (and lest I have not made it clear via these notes thus far): as chronically homeless men, the goal is to get them sheltered and care so they can, hopefully, be “reintegrated” back into society. Obviously personal hygiene is essential to making this happen.

What will happen if/when the ten men at this facility presently are placed in permanent housing?

As it was noted by both representatives the Department of Homeless Services and Common Ground, this can take years to happen. However, the intent with the respite shelter at the Greenpoint Reformed Church is to target a specific homeless population: Greenpoint’s homeless population. When Greenpoint ceases to have homeless individuals, this facility will have served its purpose.

Since I have promised not to publish any of the discussion from tonight’s two hour meeting, there’s really not much more to write. HOWEVER, the Common Ground representative present, Doug Becht, made quite clear:

  • If anyone has problems of an urgent nature regarding the conduct of any of the men who use this facility, call the 311 (the police).
  • If anyone has concerns of a less severe but chronic nature, contact Common Ground at 347-573-1746.

In closing, it was announced there would be another community meeting in “about one month”. Those who signed up at this evening’s convocation will receive notice as to when this will happen. When I hear something, I’ll say something here.***

P.S.: For those of you who are wondering, here is a roster of public officials who turned out at tonight’s meeting: Linda Minucci (50th Assembly District Democratic Party Female Leader), Steve Levin (City Councilman for the 33rd District), a representative from Joe Lentol’s office and, in an albeit unofficial capacity (Community Board 1 was apparently not notified of this convocation), the Public Safety Chair of Community Board 1.

*With one exception. One attendee noted:

There is no application to be a member of the (this) community. (One does not) audition to be a member.

**Single Room Occupancy

**On a more provocative note, one attendee informed the Mister (who arrived late) that there will be a meeting of individuals opposed to the respite shelter January 31st. No further details were given.

New York Shitty Day Ender: Cognitive Dissonance

June 21, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway at Morgan Avenue.

From the Jefferson Street stop of the L train.

P.S.: For those of you who are keeping track this is what this homeless encampment looked like as of May 31, 2012.

On June 8th I was personally assured by our City Councilman, Steve Levin, that it has been taken care of. Taken care of = the homeless have been rousted and the Department of Transportation has added admonishments via neon orange spray paint that trespassing is prohibited. In other words: the homeless problem in our community has not been solved.

From The New York Shitty Inbox, Part III: Homelessness Under The BQE?

May 30, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

A person we’ll call “N” writes:

Hi there —

Wanted to pass along some info about the homeless encampment that is starting to stink up the 5 block radius around it – I reported it to 311 and it turns out our police precinct seems to think it’s not under their jurisdiction to disband it. I’ve called the Department of Homeless Services and it seems that are also aware of the problem but have not done anything about it yet. Meanwhile the homeless guys have a BBQ, mattresses, and just tons and tons of shit piling up around there. They’ve been collecting stuff there for months now. It’s getting really disgusting. You should take a walk by there and check it out. Spread awareness and maybe if enough people complain the police or the homeless dept will get them some help. It’s really sad.

Thanks!

This afternoon I went to see this myself. The following photos and video footage pretty much say it all.

(speechless)

From The New York Shitty Inbox: Presenting The Greenpoint Neighborhood Coalition

March 15, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

A number of people have asked me about the status of the proposed 200 bed assessment center slated to grace 400 McGuinness Boulevard. Aside from noticing that it appears to be nearing completion I have drawn a blank. Until this morning which is when I received the item at left via an anonymous tipster.

As you can see a lawsuit is in the works and a meeting of the newly christened Greenpoint Neighborhood Coalition will come to pass at McGuinness Power Brake Service next Monday, March 19th, at 6:30 p.m.. Those of you who harbor concerns about this facility or simply want to learn more should make it a point to attend!

Greenpoint Neighborhood Coalition meeting regarding the proposed assessment center at 400 McGuinness Boulevard
March 19, 2012 starting at 6:30 p.m.
McGuinness Power Brake Service
404 McGuinness Boulevard
Brooklyn, New York 11222

Spotted At 400 McGuinness Boulevard: Smashed

January 18, 2012 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

A pair of simple mishaps or a sign of something more sinister? Given the controversy surrounding— if not outright hostility directed at— the proposed 200 bed assessment center at this location I am not so quick to rule out the latter. Therefore I have brought it to the attention of the head of the 94th Precinct, D.I. Hurson. He has assured me he is looking into it.

UPDATE, 9:45 p.m.: I have word from Mr. Hurson no reports have been filed regarding this. Interesting…

From The New York Shitty Inbox, Part II: Live From 400 McGuinness Boulevard

August 16, 2011 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

After seemingly being dormant for a few weeks 400 McGuinness, the site of a proposed 200 bed assessment center for single homeless men, is abuzz with activity! As you can see there is not a dumpster on the premises so the sidewalk has been pressed into service. My tipster was rather displeased by this and has vowed to file a 311 complaint. Note: the gentle removal of fiber glass insulation in the last image.

Miss Heather

Live From The 94th Precinct Community Council Meeting

(Special D.I. Hurson-less Edition)

As the above table indicates, Deputy Inspector Hurson was not present at last night’s convocation. An explanation for his absence is later given by the lady who oversaw the proceedings in the following footage.* Scott Adamo, our precinct’s Community Liaison, happened to be on vacation as well so another officer, Henry the Crime Prevention Officer for our precinct, was on hand to take notes so he can bring the issues which arose at this meeting to both Mr. Adamo and Deputy Inspector at a later time. Let’s just say that certain people present— particularly a stalwart Community Council attendee (and personal favorite), Phyllis— kept this chap on his toes! Without further ado here is the footage. Enjoy!

PART I: Preliminary announcements, including the revised schedule and location for forthcoming 94th Precinct Community Council meetings. (You can view the calendar for the remainder of the year by clicking here.)

  • Two 94th Precinct officers are commended for a recent arrest at the Cooper Houses (during which they were injured).
  • A representative from the New York City Fire Department speaks about employment opportunities.

PART II: The Q & A Session Begins

  • The issue of an increased homeless presence/encampment at Jerzy Popieluszko Square is raised by a concerned citizen. Apparently the former caretaker has stepped down and now the gates are being left open (thus facilitating the previous). I myself have seen this. It’s pretty bad.
  • Community Board 1 Public Safety Committee member Tom Burrows speaks and a victim of the anti-gay incident I wrote about in this post gives a personal account of what happened.

PART III: Phyllis Speaks

  • It has been verified by a second party that there is in fact a man at large on Bedford Avenue fitting Phyllis’s description. He sports women’s underwear (manties?) and flowers in his hair and likes to abuse women verbally (no mention of a stick was made). He was described to me as a small (think approximately 5’2″ tall) Asian-American chap between 30 and 50 years of age. He is quite insane and has been spotted in the East Village as well.
  • Phyllis is 74 years old and makes it very clear she will be keeping on eye on our Finest.

PART IV: A resident of Ainslie Street (who has been overseas for some time) notes that north Brooklyn has an alcoholism problem much to the amusement of fellow attendees.

  • Public urination is mentioned.
  • Phyllis chimes in.

PART V: Diane Jackson of the Cooper Houses brings up the matter of recent robberies thereabouts and is of the distinct opinion that the perpetrators hail from the adjacent homeless shelter located on the premises of the former Greenpoint Hospital (Ed. Note: Do give this a listen, it is seriously disturbing stuff.)

PART VI: Lincoln Restler Speaks— and Phyllis responds (Boy, does she ever!)

  • One word: fornication. Stated repeatedly and in a church by (who else?) Phyllis, no less.

New York Shitty Analysis/Commentary:

  • For a meeting which seemed to be finished before it had even started, it proved to be very interesting. One friend of yours truly opined that it was (an I quote) “better than cable television”.
  • I am very happy the young women who experienced harassment for simply bar-hopping in my fair ‘burgh showed up and spoke up. Granted, an error in judgement was made (throwing the bottle back) but ultimately what is important (and easily overlooked) is that she and her party were not the instigators. That distinction goes to a man who (for reasons only known to him) saw fit to verbally harass her and hers for simply walking down the street. This is not only unacceptable but it also begs the question (in my mind, anyway) as to who’s next? Greenpoint is without argument one of the safest (and finest) neighborhoods to be found in New York City. Nonetheless, when incidences such as this are brought to my attention it is all too clear that there is still work to be done.
  • Mr. Restler handled his trial by fire Phyllis rather well. Given that she saw fit to grill Councilman Steve Levin at last month’s meeting and get him, Rami Metal and D.I. Hurson to all attest that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a good President** proves she is not partisan in regards to Democratic Party politics but is an equal-opportunity force to be reckoned with! I can hardly wait to hear what she has to say come September. Until them folks…

Miss Heather

*Here’s what I have been told by a tipster about this:

spoke to my buddy from the 7th precinct.  the call last night in East New York was a suicide by cop.  Dude shot a guy at an automotive store then waved the gun around at cops

YIKES!

**Who, as it was rather piquantly noted by Tom Burrows, cheated on his wife Eleanor rather flagrantly. Ergo, fornication and good governance— at least per Phyllis’s logic— can and did mix.

From The New York Shitty Inbox, Part II: Now In Spanish & Polish!

May 16, 2011 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

As promised (and courtesy of Rami Metal of Councilman Levin’s office) here is the Polish/Spanish flier for the upcoming rally to protest the 200 bed homeless assessment center proposed to grace 400 McGuinness Boulevard! A print quality version of the above flier can be yours by clicking here.

Rally To Stop The Proposed Homeless Shelter at 400 McGuinness Boulevard
May 22, 2011 starting at 2:30 p.m.
400 McGuinness Boulevard (at Clay Street)
Brooklyn, New York 11222

Miss Heather

P.S.: You can download a print quality version of the English flier by clicking here.

REMINDER: Rally Against The Assessment Center at 400 McGuinness

April 28, 2011 ·
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Although I have posted this some time ago, I have recently received a number of inquiries about the proposed assessment center at 400 McGuinness Boulevard (as proposed this time around by the Bowery Residents Committee). I also met a resident of Clay Street earlier this week who had no idea whatsoever such a proposal was in the works. Therefore, I feel compelled to remind everyone there will be a rally to protest this assessment center this upcoming Sunday, May 1st.

Rally to Stop the Proposed Homeless Shelter at 400 McGuinness Boulevard
May 1, 2011 (May Day!) at 2:30 p.m.
400 McGuinness Boulevard (at Clay Street)
Brooklyn, New York 11222

Miss Heather

New York Shitty Day Ender: Better Late Than Never

From Manhattan Avenue.

Miss Heather

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