Greenpoint Homeless Shelter Quietly Opens Despite Local Opposition

In January, the Brooklyn Bureau ran an article on objections to a homeless shelter on McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Not only is the shelter in close proximity to a predominantly Polish residential neighborhood, critics say, but the location is also to close to many three-quarter houses for people struggling with drug addictions, and opponents fear the new shelter will bring an increase in crime. But with the homeless population citywide soaring and demand for shelter beds increasing, the controversial homeless shelter at 400 McGuinness Boulevard has opened ahead of its planned start date next month, much to the chagrin of those who oppose it. The article  from Nowy Dziennik is translated from Polish below.

The entrance to the homeless shelter at 400 McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka/Nowy Dziennik)

The homeless shelter in Greenpoint, which has in the last two years raised a lot of controversy among residents and neighborhood business people, was supposed to open in September. It turns out however that it is up and running already, a couple of weeks before the official opening previously scheduled by the Bowery Residents’ Committee and the Department of Homeless Services.

The workers at the shelter have unofficially told Nowy Dziennik that the 24/7 facility is already taking care of homeless men. They declined to disclose, however, how long the shelter had been open, and whether it had provided for any homeless men of Polish origin.

According to Tony Scalise, owner of a nearby car repair garage and member of a group of businessmen opposing the shelter’s opening in Greenpoint, there are already 20 homeless men staying in the facility, which employs 60 people.

“Despite ongoing remodeling in part of the building, the homeless men are staying on the first floor,” Scalise said. “To conceal it, the windows on this floor are covered with cardboard.”

Opponents of the Greenpoint shelter maintain that it was opened based on quiet permission given by the city during a summer recess for City Council, who should be informed each time a shelter opens in the city. They say that the office of Council member Steven Levin, who represents Greenpoint and Williamsburg, found out about the shelter from them, despite the fact that as a local politician, he should be asked his opinion on the opening of such a facility in his district before it opened.

Inside the Greenpoint homeless shelter. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka/Nowy Dziennik)

However, in order to launch the shelter quickly and escape further protests both from residents and business people, and local politicians, the shelter organizers used the ongoing emergency — rising demand for such facilities in the city — to allow for an expedited opening (or so-called “soft opening”) of the homeless shelter.

“The city has introduced an emergency plan, thanks to which BRC could quietly open the homeless shelter in Greenpoint and admit the homeless men before the previously scheduled opening date,” said Mieszko Kalita, member of Community Board 1. “On July 11, BRC received a temporary, two-year permission to operate the shelter.”

The Greenpoint shelter, located at 400 McGuinness Boulevard, will be a transition facility, a first stop for the homeless men who will later be referred to other city shelters where they will be able to stay. The Greenpoint facility will have 200 beds and will offer shelter for men for up to 30 days.

Residents fear that the presence of the shelter in the neighborhood will create many dangers.

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