Checking in: Stalled hotel is Sunset Park’s newest homeless shelter

Concerned: Sunset Parkers are worried that a temporary family shelter on 24th Street near Fourth Avenue will be a permanent addition to the neighborhood.
Brooklyn Paper
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Sunset Parkers are worried that a stalled inn temporarily acting as a homeless shelter is becoming a permanent lodge for the destitute without adequate oversight.

Developers planned to open a Howard Johnson hotel on 24th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, but franchisees are still waiting on the okay from hotel-company higher-ups — and in the mean time, the city is renting out nearly all 41 rooms in the building for homeless families. But short-term housing tends to become a concrete fixture, one local leader said.

“ ‘Temporary’ has an interesting meaning in New York City,” said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. “Sometimes that means forever.”

Children’s Community Services has been running the Department of Homeless Services-funded home since mid-August, according to a building manager who expects it will operate for 6–12 months.

The city must alert locals before opening a permanent shelter — they have no obligation to do so when a temporary one opens, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t let people know, Laufer said.

“The city has had an emergency declaration since 1981 which is allowing them to place shelters in communities with minimal notice,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s such an emergency that you can’t keep the community informed.”

Locals were surprised to learn about the shelter, and many did not find out until personally going into the hotel to make inquiries, according to one area resident who said she has no problem with her new neighbors but just wants a little heads-up.

“I’m fine with it being here, but as someone in the community, I just want them to let me know what’s going on,” said Marisol Castanos, who lives directly behind the building and found out about the temporary shelter when she went to the front desk to complain about residents’ rowdy behavior.

Staff at the building began handing out letters on Aug. 29 explaining the situation to locals, according to the building manager.

Howard Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Mayor DeBlasio has vowed to reduce the use of hotels as shelters — which costs the city an average of $161 per night — but the number of homeless living in inns continues to rise. In August that number was 3,990, up from 2,656 in February, according to Department of Homeless Services data.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Me from Bay Ridge says:
Isn't that "Greenwood Heights?"
Sept. 12, 2016, 9:57 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Instead of paying for section 8 vouchers for homeless familes, or building affordable units, the city gives landlord's excessive rent to temporarily house them. Smells like corruption to a reasonable person.
Sept. 12, 2016, 4:33 pm
Fed Up from Same Block says:
I live right across from this. Police are here at least once a week for noise and fighting. The people sit all over other peoples steps and hang out on corners. I was upset when a hotel was build, now I'm more upset that this became a shelter and no one on the block was told.
Sept. 13, 2016, 6:46 am
Aaron from Greenwood Hts. says:
Me, yes firmly in GWH. Sunset Park stops at 39th St.

This is such a BS ploy when a uneeded hotel (we have 4 new ones within 10 blocks) is "stalled: thus used for section 8.

The developer would have had a better deal to have built affordable housing, which the neighborhood desperately needs, instead of exploiting the commercial overlay from 4th Ave.
Sept. 13, 2016, 10:39 am
jambalaya from gwh says:
pretty fishy when it would appear that the revenues from being a shelter exceeds what a hotel operating 365 days with a market vacancy rate could generate. who would want to be a hotel when you can fake one and. exome a shelter?
Sept. 13, 2016, 8:02 pm
Crys from Greenwood says:
I live one block away and have been concerned this was happening. There are at least 2 other hotels under construction within 4 blocks. Because we are not zoned for condos, greedy developers are using this loophole to make astronomical profits. As a homeowner, I have obvious concern regarding my not only my property value but the character of the neighborhood if this sham occurs at each of the new "hotels" under construction. Not to mention the absurd waste of taxpayer dollars. $160x30 days = $4830. That is higher, by a huge amount, than my mortgage. Does anyone know what we can do as residents and tax payers in the neighborhood?
Sept. 14, 2016, 9:28 pm
Elliott K from Sunset Park says:
Where is councilperson Menchaca in protesting this problem? Tourists aren't asking for hotel rooms in industrial areas. We have to ask about connections between elected officials and approvals of these building permits. How can city permits continue to be issued when the city already has 102,000 rooms? We live here and we know this is not rational urban planning. We need affordable housing for working people and these developers should be given permits only for that. The homeless need housing, but shelters should be evenly distributed throughout the city. Every city council district should get one before any neighborhood gets more than one, Thank you Brooklyn Paper for looking into this. Please investigate the people who are approving the hotel building permits and find out what's in it for them!
Dec. 20, 2016, 9:30 am

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