From our New York City Councilmember, Brad Lander, about
the family shelter opening in Kensington on McDonald Avenue,
across from Foodtown:
As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’m thankful for the place that my family and I call home. Like you, I’m deeply grateful for the warmth, safety, and security, and for the space my kids have had to grow and thrive.
Unfortunately, nearly 60,000 New Yorkers – including 24,000 kids – aren’t so lucky. As the crisis of homelessness continues in NYC, every community has a role to play.
Like you and your neighbors in Kensington, I just recently become aware of plans from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to establish a shelter for 64 families with children at 385 McDonald Avenue (the site of a former college dorm and, before that, an assisted living facility but now vacant) that will open its doors in the next several weeks.
Of course there is a lot of anxiety in the community. Almost no one wants a new shelter located next door, especially when it is done on such short notice, and with no real community voice.
I sincerely wish that the City provided more notice to communities about new shelters. The current policy of providing only 7 days notice is allowed under the emergency contracting provisions in the City Charter – but that does not make it good policy. I believe that Brooklyn communities could be trusted to be good partners in confronting the challenges we face.
Still, I believe that every community must do its fair share to help end homelessness. New Yorkers have a legal right to shelter. And it’s also the right thing to do. Right now, we have 60,000 homeless New Yorkers housed in hundreds of shelters, in neighborhoods all over New York City.
I know some of you would like me to fight against the siting. No one wants a shelter in their neighborhood (and, of course, no one wants to live in one, either).
But I’m better at being honest with you: The City has the legal right to open a shelter there, without asking us, even without more notice, and the obligation to provide shelter for all families who need it. They are doing this all around the city. So I think it makes more sense to get all the facts, work together to solve any problems that may arise, and show compassion for the families who are without shelter as the temperatures drop.
The operator that has been selected, CAMBA, is a high-quality, Brooklyn-based not-for-profit organization with a very good, 35-year track record in our district. CAMBA has been operating a shelter at the Park Slope Armory (that shelters a more intensive population – for women with a history of substance abuse or mental illness) since 1996, and in 2013 it expanded from 70 to 100 women – and my office receives very few complaints from neighbors.
My own kids went to school directly across the street from the Park Slope Women’s Shelter, at PS 107, from Pre-K through 5th grade. The Armory functions as the gym for PS 107, so the kids walk by the shelter on a daily basis. Over the 11 years my kids attended PS 107, I am not aware of a single incident that my kids, their friends, or any of their classmates experienced. And that shelter is larger and is for single women with histories of substance abuse and mental illness.
That is not the plan for 385 McDonald Avenue, which will only shelter families with children.
As we would with any City facility, my office will work with the community to make sure that important issues are addressed and questions are answered by NYC DHS.
We need to make sure that a good security and service plan is in place. Captain Ken Quick from the 66th Precinct has already been pushing to make sure a good plan is in place – so there will be security cameras, a security guard in front of the facility, more school safety officers, and a commitment to provide some extra NYPD eyes on-site at school dismissal and after schools.
We also need to make sure that PS 230 has sufficient resources to provide education and support to any new students.
And I’m sure there will be other community issues as well: Where will residents smoke? Can the building offer meeting space for community and civic meetings?
To answer these and other questions, we are holding a community meeting on Thursday, December 10th, at PS 230 to make sure that neighbors’ concerns are heard and addressed by DHS, the DOE, and City Hall:
Thursday, December 10th6:30PS 230Please RSVP here
Look, I know many of you are upset, especially about the timing and the sense of being presented with something that is a "done deal."
But still, I hope that during this week of gratitude for our blessings, we can show compassion for homeless New Yorkers, including our future neighbors at 385 McDonald Avenue. So, I’m asking you to try, this Thanksgiving week, to approach the situation with compassion, and begin the work of problem-solving to address any issues that arise.
However you feel about this issue, my very best wishes for a good Thanksgiving.