Sunset Parkers challenge homeless shelter sitings

Sunset Park residents, frustrated that they have been left out of the loop with respect to the siting of homeless shelters in the neighborhood, made their views known to city officials during a March 30 meeting at Community Board 7.

Of particular concern were the local homeless shelters converted from hotels, specifically the Red Carpet Inn on 39th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and the Sleep Inn, at 49th Street and Second Avenue, operated by the Samaritan Village.

“It’s very disrespectful to our community that we’re not notified that this is happening,” Maria Roca, founder of Friends of Sunset Park, told  representatives from the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and the Human Resources Administration (HRA), who attended the meeting, along with local elected officials.

“This is my problem with the 39th Street shelter. It just happened. We were never asked or advised,” added board member Tom Murphy.

“There’s been a lot of rumors and misinformation in the community and I think the first step is to get some of the folks involved in the implementation to set the record straight,” said First Vice Chair of CB7, Cesar Zuniga.

“The city is putting millions into the homeless problem, an epidemic that is reaching every community,” added Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. “We need to understand how that’s happening and how we can play a role in defining how those dollars come to Sunset Park.”

As far as the lack of notification is concerned, according to Cindy Anne Pascall, Brooklyn coordinator for HRA’s Department of Social Service, “Because these individuals were placed under an emergency declaration due to the conditions they were living in previously being unsafe, we didn’t notify the public,” said .

Pascall also addressed the rumor that a registered sex offender was residing at the 39th Street facility.

“The HRA is currently able to house registered sex offenders at the 39th Street location who are on parole or probation. However, no registered sex offenders currently on parole or probation are housed at this location,” Pascall said, adding that there is 24/7 security at the site.

The 49th Street shelter “officially opened” in January, according to Steve Rockman, vice president of Samaritan Village, who contended that the facility was sufficiently staffed at all times to handle the 150 residents.

“We service them through a multi-disciplined social service staff of about 30 somewhat individuals,” he explained, noting that, “No less than five people are on duty at any given time per our operating regulations and, in most cases, we have up to10 people.” The center is also designated as an employment shelter.

“Not notifying the community may have been unintentional but you have to be more thoughtful about reaching out, engaging the community and being good partners with them,” replied Zuniga.

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