Checking in, but not out?
Sunset Park residents, police and community board members are on alert regarding the situation of homeless families staying in up to five local hotels, and feel they have more questions than answers. Of particular concern, they said during Community Board 7’s September meeting, as well as the September meeting of the 72nd Precinct Community Council, is late night noise as groups congregate in the street near the hotels, and also near residences.
“It’s very concerning for me, especially at night,” said college student Vito Reese. “I’ve lived here for 20 years and I have never heard or seen such congregations until the last couple of weeks as they opened up this hotel (on 24th Street). If you Google this hotel to book a room, as I tried to, I was redirected into another hotel so I just want to know what is going on with this hotel.”
“They kind of snuck them in during the beginning of August,” said Barbara Lee, who lives near the hotel at 24th Street and Fourth Avenue. “Nobody knew anything, and all of a sudden, they were there.
“They’ve been outside my building, smoking cigarettes, out in the street at 1 a.m. and I asked them one time to stop and they were very rude,” Lee went on. “I know people need homes and a place to stay but at the same time I feel my living situation shouldn’t be compromised.”
72nd Precinct Captain Emmanuel Gonzalez said during the precinct’s community council meeting that he has heard the concerns of residents. “These are not actually homeless shelters. They’re hotels that get a contract with the city to house homeless families, so the police are not even notified,” he said. “When these families come here, they need to acclimate and adapt to the neighborhood. So I need to send my officers there to let them know, for example, that it’s not acceptable behavior to be out at such a late hour.”
During the CB 7 meeting on Wednesday, September 21, District Manager Jeremy Laufer echoed the captain’s sentiments about being left in the dark. “There are five hotels in the area that are part of Department of Homeless Services (DHS),” he said. “These five are not considered shelters even though at least one of them has every room is taken up by a homeless family.”
He also stated his displeasure with DHS, noting that it “does not let anybody know that they are going to be renting at these hotels, and that includes the elected officials and that’s a policy that needs to change.”
In addition, Laufer said that CB 7 has been working with politicians and local residents to create a system to let new residents of the community know what’s in the neighborhood so they can use facilities such as the park, pool and recreation center.
“We are in the dark as well when these homeless shelters come about,” agreed Gonzalez. “The best you can do is call 911 and we will dispatch officers and if they’re being loud, we will give them a summons.”