Carroll Gardens residents: Don’t give us homeless shelter

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Bronx-based non-profit wants to open a 170-bed homeless shelter on a residential block of Carroll Gardens — but neighbors fear a cramped facility will encourage troubled folks to loiter nearby.

Aguila Incorporated plans to offer single adults housing in a five-story building on West Ninth and Court streets to “help less fortunate individuals find a better quality of life,” according to a letter the group submitted to Community Board 6.

But residents contend the proposal is unsafe and unfit for the family-centric neighborhood, partly because the shelter will likely allocate each dweller a space about the size of a large office cubicle.

Experts in the field say roughly one-third of the building — which was originally designed as a condo development — will likely go toward common areas, sparking fears among neighbors that cramped personal quarters could push shelter dwellers outside, and with them panhandling and drug use.

“It’s a little scary if they end up roaming the streets,” said neighbor and father James Dimoca. “I know this sounds selfish — but there are an awful lot of young families around here.”

Other residents and business owners, some of whom are circulating a petition to protest the plan, suspect the shelter will become a stain on the newly cleaned-up area, which is just steps from the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway on one side and hot new businesses such as the much-buzzed-about eatery Buttermilk Channel on the other.

“This end of Carroll Gardens has just recently started to improve with new shops and restaurants opening — [the shelter] negatively impacts this area’s ability to continue to improve,” neighbor Janet Zimmerman wrote on a petition.

Aguila’s chief executive officer Robert Hess — a former New York City Department of Homeless Services commissioner — didn’t return two calls seeking comment on Monday.

But homeless advocacy groups not tied to the project say the amount of planned per-person space — roughly 100 square feet per inhabitant not counting common areas — is livable, so long as Aguila uses smart spatial planning.

“If [residents are] not comfortable they’re going to leave at all times during day and night,” said Neil Donovan of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “But some of that can be relieved by the physical nature of the place.”

Donovan ran a 1,700-bed shelter in Boston with nearly the same amount of space reserved for each dweller as the Carroll Gardens plan — and it functioned fine, he said.

It helped that he made use of bunk beds, new walls, and curfews, which he claims helped eliminate potential loitering problems.

“You need a game plan,” Donovan said.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Carroll Gardens) echoed that idea, saying the problem with Aguila’s is in the details — or lack thereof.

“[It] includes no plans for whether the shelter would have adequate space and services — or how it could work for its residents or its neighbors,” he said.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:36 pm, July 9, 2018: Story updated to make a clunky paragraph cleaner.
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Reasonable discourse

benti from brooklyn says:
I guess this is just another Democratic Liberal view who wants everybody else to do the dirty work...'but not in my backyard'. Do us a favor and practice what you preach for a change and maybe the rest of us who do believe in social responsibility can get some things done.
Oct. 16, 2012, 6:47 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Imagine the howls of protests if the BQE is ever torn down and people from Red Hook "end up roaming the streets."
Oct. 16, 2012, 10:01 am
bb from carroll gardens says:

I believe in social responsibilty and so do most of my neighbotrs. What we do not believe, in is not having any say on what is going on in our neighborhood. 170 people in a facility that size is too many. There are no social services nearby to accomadate that many people. No plan has been presented to us, and we are being told this is happening on an emergency basis not requiring community approval. If this is transitional housing why are no children and women scheduled to live here. Why not have families in need and not 170 men.
Oct. 16, 2012, 10:59 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Contact the landlord and offer to buy the condos! Otherwise, hire an attorney to slow the process, and potentially afford community opposition to stop the conversion. Although I have some sympathy to homeless men, shelters should not be allowed to diminish middle class neighborhoods. (Women's shelters tend not to have this effect). I am sure the city has buildings they could offer for a shelter in a more appropriate location. (At least put the shelter on a commercial strip.) However, it seems the City is selling these buildings to developers and letting the responsibility of housing homeless fall on middle class neighborhoods.
Oct. 16, 2012, 11:30 am
Larry from East New York says:
Why should homeless shelters be located at only BLACK areas?
Oct. 16, 2012, 11:44 am
L from Carroll Gardens says:
Our concern is the lack of due process and community input for this venture before its arrival. We are demanding a process whereby we can meet with elected officials and understand how these decisions that affect our neighborhood have been made and we have the opportunity to be heard and take a role in this process. We are not opposing the establishment of shelters or homeless people in the neighborhood and understand the necessity to shelter those who have no roof over their head. But we want to know how the decision to use this building took place, and how it can be designated for 170 men without any community input? If it arrives under an emergency contract rule, how long does such a dictate last? At what point does the “emergency” run out?

The proposed Shelter is in a ten unit condo building that has remained vacant or partially occupied since its construction due to its poor quality of construction and other problems. It is located in a residential neighborhood of mostly two to three story houses. The neighborhood is a family area with small locally owned and run businesses. We prize diversity of all sorts. But why would this building not be allocated to homeless families with children who could benefit from the excellent public school for example? How did the number of 170 come to be allocated to a building that has ten units.

We cannot understand how the process of local democracy and neighborhood revitalization can take place if the DSS and city services can essentially redesignate the use of buildings with only 30 days notice to the very community where it plans to establish itself. Moreover the community deserve more explanation and input on a matter that has broad scale implications for its development.
Oct. 16, 2012, 11:58 am
JoeyWall from Stuy Town says:
Housing policies in NYC are broken and badly in need of reform.

Join market-rate renters discussing the problem:
Oct. 16, 2012, 2:21 pm
J from Carroll Gardens says:
The title of this article is misleading. The majority of the community objects not to having a homeless shelter in its midst, but to having a homeless shelter of that size placed on a small residential block with no input from the community, in what smacks of croneyism and conflicts of interest. We are not saying "don't give us a homeless shelter". If people would read the actual petition you would see that we're looking for community participation in planning and decision making and fair government transparency and accountability.
Oct. 16, 2012, 3:44 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I don't see what is so bad about a homeless shelter. For much of the city, these people can hardly afford to live there, so this is all they got. Whenever there are protests against this, most of the opponents happen to be high up on the ladder, which are the same opposition to affordable housing. Does every block need to be a playground for the rich? As for those who believe that it will give blight to the area, I would blame the individual, not the whole program itself, and the same goes with affordable housing.
Oct. 16, 2012, 4:37 pm
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Come on guys, you have to share! Isn't that what you teach your kids in all those fancy schools you have over there?
Oct. 16, 2012, 5:28 pm
Mom from Carroll Gardens says:
This article is misleading and not truthful, no one is opposing the shelter, they are opposing the ban on community input. If you visit Carroll Gardens, specifically the blocks surrounding this homeless shelter, you will see that the size of this shelter is completely inappropriate. There is not a large enough population density to absorb 170 homeless men, the impact will be negative for all parties. Yesterday morning at 9:05am , a man was slashed on the same block as the proposed shelter. Two weeks ago a man was shot, also within a few blocks. There are two methadone clinics within the same 3 blocks, trust me this neighborhood is doing it's fair share and they are willing to take on more, they want a shelter - a shelter that works. Do you think 170 men will be happy to be crammed into a small building in a family-centric neighborhood with no jobs or nowhere to go. They, too, will be easy targets for crime. There are 4 preschools and a grade school all within 1-3 blocks. Let's put in a family shelter and help the kids access the great public schools. It's about making change and transitioning and reigning in NYC's all time high homeless count. These emergency shelters are not working, lets all find put our thinking caps on to find a new solution.
Oct. 16, 2012, 8:22 pm
Jeff from Carroll Gardens says:
We are “pro” homeless shelters. We are “pro” for having a homeless shelter in Carroll Gardens. However, this proposal was approved with no community involvement. If Housing Solutions USA and the DHS had collaborated with our community, we may have proposed an integrated solution that would have respected our democratic rights and the quality-of-life rights for the homeless.

Is 170 single men placed into a 10 unit building, within a largely family base community the best solution? Maybe it is. But I can think of several other possible solutions that should have been put on the table. Homeless families? Battered women? Though we never got the chance to evaluate them or the many other possible solutions.

We are a reasonable community willing to contribute and solve the homeless issue.
Let us have a chance. You article title is misleading because we never even had the chance to say what you implied.
Oct. 16, 2012, 10:21 pm
Resident from CG says:
If think are many contributors to this column under the impression that this neighborhood is like BK Heights or Park Slope or the brown stones of Carroll Gardens... it is the last 2 blocks before the BQE. When my partner and I moved here 5 years ago ,we lived in one of the few residential building that fronted Court street ,others were abandoned and needed to be torn down or drastically fixed. In 4 years we have seen couples and young families of all ethnic origins who could never afford a one bedroom in Manhattan buy or rent here and start a community. We have been battling with the AG's office to get our developer to bring our building to code and for nearly all of us this is our first home into which we have sunk all our savings Yet in the midst of this we are a community who would gladly welcome an outreach program to homeless families whose kids could have acces to a great school system if the shelter was structured to be long term housing and not temporary housing. We have 2 methadone clinics and a growing problem with street prostitution but have managed to keep the crime rate contained but are slowly losing a battle through lack of funding for street patrols. This community has not been included in any type of discussion about the planned shelter ,we don't know if the inhabitants will have a guaranteed bed every night or if they will be turned out every morning at 8am to sit in the streets till the evening through the winter months, there has been no information shared with us other than 170 men put into 10 residential units. The building's owner, is allegedly on the board of directors of the Housing Group pushing to open the Shelter,and is on the slumlords list in NY with multiple violations so there are suspect deals and conflicts of interest being played out behind closed doors all to pass the buck of a failed Bloomberg housing policy , pushed out into the Burroughs....
Oct. 16, 2012, 10:23 pm
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights says:
benti, you're exactly right. And there is no due process violation here. Also, while the building may be rather large, we've continuously seen so-called social justice loving liberals up in arms about much smaller shelters being built throughout the city. This is not the first, and it won't be the last time that we see the hypocrisy of the left on this issue.
Oct. 17, 2012, 8:45 am
Neighbors from Carroll Gardens says:
To those claiming upper class hypocrisy, I'd welcome you to visit our block if you can spare the time to get your heads of out of your asses. We're a lot of working class and middle class people who are eager to do our part for the poor, but don't want to see our fragile community completely recharacterized with no input from the people who know the neighborhood best.
Oct. 18, 2012, 4:13 pm
Jessica from Carroll Gardens says:
I am torn and feel strongly both ways in this discussion. I've become friends with Mickey who often sits at the Carroll St. F train stop (as I'm sure many of you have come to know). He is a lovely, gentle homeless man who is doing his best to be a productive member of society, and he is currently living in a rehab facility on the LES for the winter. In my conversations with him, he reminded me that he was living in this neighborhood long before any of the upper-class residents moved in, so people like him have just a much a right to be here as those of us with money. However, he's also emphasized to me multiple times that homeless shelters are actually WORSE than living on the street. At least on the street, no one picks fights, looks for trouble or steals things right out from your nose as you sleep. He said he'll never live in a shelter for fear of personal safety.
Oct. 18, 2012, 6:41 pm
Donna from BK says:
Why is it not being built in the Bronx??
Oct. 20, 2012, 11:15 am
tommy from carroll gardens says:
We have many seniors who live in this neighborhood and are being forced out because of the rising rents, that building with some work would be great for them, so they dont have to move from where they lived all their lives. IF THAT DOESNT WORK FOR YOU how about a place for are wounded and disabled soldiers who return from war who are homeless and disabled, MORE THEN ANYBODY ELSE THEY DESERVE A PLACE TO LIVE put 170 of brave soldiers IN THAT BUILDING
Oct. 25, 2012, 6:55 pm
JB from Brooklyn says:
Why don't you take off your invisible backpack of privilege? As a life long Brooklynite I am not surprised at the opposition from those in a position of power. You say you're the 99%? I disagree. This is typical conflict theory, those who with power and privilege are unwilling to share the privileges they assume everyone has.

I'm posting an article by Peggy Mcintosh
Oct. 31, 2012, 8:55 pm
tony from b'hurst says:
No neighborhood deserves a homeless shelter. They belong on an island, or a large piece of property, like Floyd Bennet Field, where they can mill around all day looking for a place to defecate.
Nov. 1, 2012, 3:27 am
Anthony from Red hook at says:
Again a lot of yelling and talk talk talk by politicos and nothing was done to help the neighborhood .I was at meeting the but nothing happened it was mentioned that the building was doing work without building permits .Then storm came everyone is busy with than. Me I am moving out!
Nov. 2, 2012, 7:37 am
different viewpoint from elsewhere says:
No one has mentioned the sex offenders yet.

Bravo to all the residents being very PC about welcoming homeless to their neighborhood because "everyone needs a place to sleep." one has yet mentioned that a large % of homeless in shelters are pedophiles.

If you dont believe, do a homefacts dot com search for long island city and youll see that all the registered sex offenders live in a shelter there.

If you all are OK with having your sons and daughters make best friends with the new kid rapists hanging out on the stoop in the name of being PC and inclusive, that's your call.

But if you had any sense, you should get out there and oppose this shelter and make your voices heard.

Dont give into the attempt to guilt you into allowing this shelter in your home under the false argument that your privilege makes you have to accept this. Protect your family first.

Those warm fuzzy feelings from helping the "homeless" wont be there once your new neighbor Mr Big takes down little Johnny's pants in the alley.
Nov. 3, 2012, 11:17 am

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