By Rachel Holliday Smith – DNAInfo.com
The city faced tough questions Thursday night about a plan to open another homeless shelter in the neighborhood, as locals demanded they reconsider the plan and make it low-income housing instead.
In a packed auditorium, an angry crowd pushed back on the city’s plan to open a homeless shelter for 132 families at 267 Rogers Ave. in Crown Heights, demanding to know how much the project will cost and whether it will help solve, as Assemblywoman Diana Richardson put it, the area’s “housing crisis.”
“What we are saying to the Department of Homeless Services is, and the City of New York is, you could do better by the Crown Heights community,” Richardson said at the public meeting held at P.S. 161.
“When we are losing our homes, when eviction is up, we are not really providing real, low-income and real affordable housing. We see the cranes, we see the development. But none of us can afford to move in anywhere,” she said.
The meeting comes a week after residents near the proposed shelter and local Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo demanded the city instead use the shelter location as low-income housing.
But there is no indication from the city that will happen. The Rogers Avenue facility is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide plan to create 90 new homeless shelters as the city closes 360 former cluster and hotel sites formerly used by DHS.
On Thursday, city officials present were clear that the new shelter was necessary — and that it would be the last to open in Brooklyn Community Board 9, where the meeting took place.
“We have zero plans to add any more shelters in this community board beyond those that were announced on February 15,” said Daniel Tietz, Chief Special Services Officer for the city’s Human Resources Administration.
Slated to open in May, the city has said 267 Rogers Ave. will be one of four shelter sites operating in the area by year’s end, down from a total of 19 sites open in the beginning of 2017.
But many in the crowd weren’t satisfied with the plan and grilled the city and representatives of the shelter’s operator, the nonprofit Samaritan Village, about the cost of the Rogers Avenue project.
Tietz did not answer those questions and instead referred the public to an April 20 hearing where the details of Samaritan Village’s contract would be discussed.
That didn’t sit well with many, including Ingrid Lewis-Martin — a longtime Crown Heights resident and a senior advisor to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — who demanded specifics, including how much the city is paying Samaritan Village for each unit in the shelter every month.
“We are taxpaying citizens and we have a right to know,” she said.
In response, Samaritan Village’s chief operating officer Doug Apple said “we have a contract,” but said “we haven’t actually negotiated all the details.”
The audience immediately shouted him down and Lewis-Martin spoke into the microphone over the noise: “How can the city tell the community that they’re opening up a shelter and it doesn’t know the amount that it’s going to cost the city?”
“We need 100 percent low-income housing,” she added. “We don’t need another shelter.”
The Rogers Avenue shelter is one of three DHS facilities coming to the Crown Heights area. One, a women’s shelter in Prospect Heights, has already opened. A second, located at 1173 Bergen St., has been blocked from opening by a Brooklyn judge following a lawsuit from nearby residents who say the neighborhood is oversaturated with shelters.
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