Shelter Plan Lacks Common Sense (commentary)
Last month, the mayor announced that he was funding a 200-bed homeless shelter for women and children at 44 Victory Blvd., in Tompkinsville, several hundred feet away from an existing homeless shelter for women and children run by Project Hospitality. The site is one of the most valuable pieces of property in the area because it is zoned for a mixed-use tower that can add residents and income to a neighborhood that is the focus of revitalization efforts. As is its practice, the city is offering the property owner, Freehold S L Limited, a long-term lease well above market rate as an incentive to complete the deal.
The location, 44 Victory Blvd., is just steps away from Minthorne, a row of boutique eateries created by businessman Gary Angiuli, who has been able to attract visitors from Brooklyn and beyond to hang out in the area. In addition to providing a home for cool businesses like Flagship Brewing Co., Daddy O’s BBQ and O’Henry’s Publik House, Angiuli is funding the construction of an elevated park adjacent to the train tracks as a community amenity.
About a mile down the road is Empire Outlets, a project which Community Board 1 demanded be added to the Request for Proposal issued by NYC EDC when they wanted to build the New York Wheel. CB 1 knew that shopping was the best way to get tourists off the boat and onto Staten Island to spend money. It also knew that the community needed a place to shop.
Adjacent to EO is Lighthouse Point, another project spearheaded by CB1 and just a train stop away is another project supported by the community – Urby, a unique mixed-use project designed to attract young urban professionals. Together, these projects represent approximately $1 billion of private investment into Downtown Staten Island.
Over the last five years, the city has awarded millions of dollars in grants to the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, the Staten Island Downtown Alliance, Staten Island Arts and the Staten Island Business Outreach Center to retain and attract businesses to the area. All anyone has to do is walk along Bay Street to know that the investment is paying off. So, where is the common sense in opening a 200-bed homeless shelter in the heart of a district where billions of dollars have been spent on revitalization? Why aren’t our elected officials leading the protest and demanding a more sensible solution to supporting the 1,400 Staten Islanders who are now homeless?
Homeless shelters are dangerous and expensive. In 2018, there were more than 2,500 criminal complaints logged within New York City shelters – 528 were felonies. Homeless services experts agree that the answer to reducing homelessness isn’t to open shelters, but to create more permanent affordable housing, which saves money while truly helping individuals get back on their feet.
Within the Bay Street corridor we have an excellent example of this type of housing. The Rail, located in Stapleton, is a beautiful building with wonderful amenities. Those who live there are not stigmatized by the community, because everyone who lives there is part of the neighborhood. They shop in local stores. Children attend local schools and they have a home they can call their own.
The Department of City Planning spent the last several years and considerable cost to create a plan to rezone the Bay Street corridor. If adopted, the plan will protect the 1,700 low-income residents living in the corridor, plus add more permanent affordable housing within newly built, multi-unit residential buildings — similar to what was done at The Rail. Unfortunately, representatives of City Planning did an extremely poor job explaining what the rezoning would do, which caused the community board to vote against it. The next stop for the plan is the borough president. I urge him to support the very sensible rezoning plan and to oppose the construction of a homeless shelter only blocks away from where one already exists, because it is the common sense thing to do.
By Leticia Remauro
(Leticia Remauro is the former chairwoman of Community Board 1 and secretary for the Staten Island Downtown Alliance.)
Photo Credit- Rendering owned by NYCDCP
I agree completely. This will destroy any hopes of revitalizing the already downtrodden neighborhood. What is the Mayor thinking?? I think many will want to move if this happens. Keep up the fight!! And let us all know what we can do. Thank you for all that you do! Please run for SI next BP.