Brooklyn community fights proposed homeless shelter

January 10, 2012 4:46:03 AM PST
There is an acute homeless problem city-wide, and in particular in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But a proposal to develop a 200-bed shelter in the neighborhood is being met with stiff opposition.

It's is a major point of contention for residents in Greenpoint. Everyone agrees the homeless need somewhere to go, but many say this plan is not the answer.

Homeless in McGolrick Park are grateful for and a hot cup of soup and a sandwich on a chilly morning. Volunteers venture out daily to feed them.

They sleep under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on battered mattresses. During the summer, they'll use park benches. Advocate Pat McDonnell says many homeless are Polish immigrants who speak little English and are battling addictions. For them, it's a matter of life and death.

"Six people have died last year in the parks," McDonnell said. "One was a very close friend of mine. Three weeks ago, a man was on Nassau Avenue. All the sudden, he's not there. Jerry is his name. Where's Jerry? Jerry's dead."

But the proposed 200-bed all-male facility on McGuiness Boulevard isn't scoring points with everyone.

"The homeless shelter that they want to bring in, which is a 200-bed assessment center, would do absolutely nothing to help the homeless population here in Greenpoint," City Councilman Steve Levin said. "But instead, bring in an additional 200 individuals at any given time, and that would be on a rotating basis...It would actually exacerbate an already pretty bad situation."

Tony Scalese has owned a power brake service since the 1970s. He is right across the street from the proposed center.

"Everybody in the neighborhood is worried that it's going to bring crime back into the area," he said.

Greenpoint is home to many families with young children, and residents worry about what will happen to the up-and-coming area.

The Department of Homeless Services says the facility is still under consideration, but the community is continuing to fight it. Many business owners say they will ban together and file a lawsuit to block the project.

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