Despite the City's own data that shows that 60% of all homeless individuals currently live in Manhattan, the Mayor announced last week a plan to move the City's intake center for all single men from its current location on First Avenue and 28th Street in Manhattan to the Bedford-Atlantic Armory Shelter in Crown Heights North, Brooklyn. The losers in this plan will be thousands of the City's most vulnerable citizens who will have to travel long distances to find a bed for the night and a Brooklyn neighborhood already over-saturated with more than its fair share of residential social service beds.
Leading the fight against the City's plan in Brooklyn is the Crown Heights Revitalization Movement (CHARM), a newly-formed community group, with a comprehensive community vision: 1) to achieve parity with other Brooklyn neighborhoods by dramatically reducing the number of residential social service beds, while at the same time; 2) advocating that appropriate social services and job creation be made available for current residents of the neighborhood; 3) revitalizing key business districts; and 4) improving neighborhood safety and infrastructure. Through direct action, education, mobilizing efforts, and advocacy, CHARM is restoring this neighborhood so that it will be safe, thriving, and meet the many needs of everyone who lives and works here.
Rachel Pratt, one of CHARM's founders, says "The City's plan is not good for anyone! It will make it more, not less, difficult for homeless men to find safe shelter. It will increase street homeless throughout the City, and will dramatically increase the presence of homeless men in Crown-Heights North, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-
Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Traffic, caused by busing in hundreds of additional homeless men for intake, will clog the already dangerous intersections near Atlantic and Bedford Avenues. For all of these reasons, CHARM says `no' to the City's plan to relocate the intake center to the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter." In opposing the City's plan, CHARM is issuing four additional demands for the NYC Department of Homeless Services:
- Create real services and jobs opportunities for the current residents of the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter. Because it is misclassified as a short-term assessment center, no programs or services currently exist at this site
- Provide new management, supervision, and security for the shelter's current residents. By all accounts, the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter is one of the most poorly run shelters in the City
- Dedicate funds to create affordable housing as an alternative to shelter beds.
- End the City's use of ¾ housing in all of New York City and especially in the neighborhoods surrounding the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter.
CHARM is joined in this fight by advocates for the homeless, other local community groups, businesses, residents, and many of Brooklyn's elected officials. Calling the plan "misguided" and in direct conflict with the City's own vision for a decentralized intake system, the Coalition for the Homeless believes that the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter is already poorly run and will not well serve New York City's most vulnerable citizens.
Data recently compiled from the City's own agencies reveals that the central Brooklyn neighborhood where the Bedford-Atlantic Shelter is located (Community Board 8), although small geographically, houses more residential social service beds per acre than any other Brooklyn community. At 112 bed per 100 acres—more than five times the average—the situation has become a crisis demanding immediate attention. The data used for this analysis is the City's own, and includes beds from both State (Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities), Office of Mental Health, Office of ASIS) and City (DHS) agencies, as well as those contracted through non-profit organizations. This data does not include the many ¾ houses in the community as the information was not available at the time of assessment.
Through the closing of the First Avenue shelter and intake center, the City plans to convert this prime East Side real estate into a hotel and conference center. A spokesperson from the Department of Homeless Services said the changes were scheduled to go into effect by September 2008—five short months from now. At this time, no plans have been made by the City for housing the 600 men who currently reside there, nor have details been released about the use of the revenue generated from the sale or lease of the First Avenue location.
A demonstration and press conference against the proposed move has been scheduled for 1PM on Thursday, May 8 at City Hall.
Contact Rachel Pratt at email@example.com for more information or to volunteer to help.