Taking cover: Controversial homeless shelter turns reporter away from public meeting

Turned away: The shelter’s program director Cesar Villegas (standing on stairs in this picture) told this reporter the meeting was only for community advisory board members.
Brooklyn Paper
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City officials and homeless shelter operators turned the press away from an otherwise-public meeting about a controversial Sunset Park men’s home, because they say the discussions were too “sensitive” for the news to attend.

A so-called “community advisory board” for the publicly funded shelter on 49th Street met Wednesday night, but a worker refused to let this paper in, claiming that the meetings intended to foster dialogue between locals and shelter operators were not, in fact, open to local news.

“You were given the impression that this is an open meeting, but it’s not,” said program manager Cesar Villegas, who works for operator Samaritan Village. “It’s invite-only, and right now we’re talking with the community advisory board.”

A representative from Councilman Carlos Menchaca’s (D–Sunset Park) office told this paper on Wednesday afternoon that the meeting was open to all, but reached later, the rep said previous information was confused and — due to the sensitive nature of the meeting — press was not allowed to attend.

The advisory board is composed of civic activists, community board members, elected officials and their representatives, local faith leaders, block association heads, and business improvement district honchos, according to a spokeswoman with the Department of Homeless Services who could not immediately provide a list of board members’ names.

Samaritan Village did, apparently, let in a few members of the public, according to one local leader who attended.

“I understood that it was open to the public,” said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer. “Members from the community were there. Two of my neighbors were there.”

The meeting was held the same day this paper published a story in which several shelter residents alleged the Department of Homeless Services-funded home was not providing housing- and job-placement assistance that it claims it is.

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

Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Nothing to see here citizen! Move along!
Sept. 12, 2016, 10:58 pm

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