Monday, March 6, 2023
Generally clear. High 52 degrees.
Our calendar has lots of local events! Click on the link or the lady in the upper righthand corner to look.
There will be a Full Community Board 7 meeting on Tuesday, March 7, at 6:30 PM. Important resolutions are being voted on, including one denying a deliverista hub the city wants to place at West 72nd Street and Broadway, and another approving a safe haven the city is placing on West 83rd Street. The meeting will be held online via Zoom. The public is encouraged to attend.
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By Carol Tannenhauser
I live two blocks and one avenue away from the new “safe haven” that is scheduled to open next month on West 83rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.
A safe haven is a form of transitional housing developed for unsheltered homeless people — those living in the streets, parks, and subways. The 83rd Street safe haven is replacing a traditional men’s homeless shelter that had been operating in that location for decades, but closed in 2019 for undisclosed reasons, perhaps related to a double stabbing and murder that took place there.
Safe havens are different from traditional homeless shelters. They generally have smaller populations, with more individualized services, and fewer rules. Most important, a person doesn’t have to enter the widely feared and highly bureaucratic New York City homeless shelter system to gain entry to a safe haven. Residents are brought directly in by community outreach workers, who presumably know and have worked with them for awhile. Here arises another issue: should residents come from outside of the neighborhood? But that’s for another story.
Reader response to the coming of this new facility rivals that engendered by countless stories we wrote in 2020 about The Lucerne hotel on West 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, which the city used to house 283 homeless men for nearly a year at the height of the pandemic. But I had watched the Lucerne saga from afar; this new safe haven is in my backyard.
I won’t deny initial feelings of dismay and alerts from my inner “nimby” — an acronym for the phrase “not in my backyard.” In other words, “of course these facilities are needed, just don’t put them in my sight line.” I struggled with my conflicts and conscience, until I remembered that I know something about homelessness and homeless people, learned firsthand.
I worked closely with single, homeless men for more than 20 years, readying them for jobs and finding employers who would hire them, at The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization that deploys and pays the men in blue uniforms you see sweeping up and bagging trash around the city. The Doe Fund also provide them with social services and educational and job-training opportunities. Over the years, I interviewed hundreds of homeless men in the Harlem shelter where I worked: ex-offenders, ex-gang members, ex-drug dealers, ex-addicts, foster-care kids, crack babies, murderers. I’ve maintained a lasting friendship with one man I met there — my boss — the former director of The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able program. As we got to know each and shared our histories, I learned that he had been a heroin and crack addict, who had survived for a year sleeping on the F train.
My friend grew up in Amsterdam Houses, the NYCHA project on 61st and Amsterdam. When he lived there in the 1950s, it was brand new and idyllic, “because drugs had not yet hit,” he explained. As the debate continues over the 83rd Street safe haven, it’s worth going back to read three stories written by my friend for the Rag. His descriptions of how drugs destroy lives and neighborhoods are searing. The links are here, here, and here.
In the current furor over the new safe haven, many protest: “But it’s across the street from a school!” The safe haven is indeed across the street from a school. But some of the homeless likely to move in are already in the neighborhood: in doorways, under sidewalk sheds, in subway stations and cars. Are the schools more secure with them roaming the streets than they would be if they were living in a facility with a projected staff of 40 or more, including security guards, case managers, and psychiatrists? And are the homeless better off on the streets than in a facility where they have access to assistance that could help them move forward in their lives, like my friend?
If I had seen him on the subway, slumped over, smelly, in dirty clothes, I would have moved away from him. Another program — and his enormous will — saved him and helped him become a productive member of society. Every homeless person has a story. Every one cannot be saved. But all seem worth a try.
Did I mention that those years spent with homeless men were the most instructive, exciting, and rewarding of my life? You haven’t lived until you see a formerly homeless man get a job!
Editor’s note: The Rag will be following the progress of the safe haven closely. My personal leanings will not get in the way of the fair, full, and accurate reporting you have come to expect from the Rag. Our intention is to speak to representatives from Breaking Ground, the nonprofit that will run the safe haven. I learned from my experience at The Doe Fund that the quality of the service provider determines the quality of the services and facility.
Also: NPR is working on the story of a homeless man, now deceased, named “Stephen” who lived on a Riverside Park bench. WSR did several stories on him. If you remember him and are interested in sharing your memories, please email Radio Diaries producer Alissa Escarce at email@example.com.
Take care and enjoy the week!
I am happy to learn you will be following developments at Safe Haven on West 83rd. It’s a needed public service. What I’ve seen too often on the UWS, and elsewhere, is overseeing organizations and management reaping big rewards and occupants, at best, languishing and worse.
Thank you for your honest column and your service to others and the community – it is greatly appreciated.
That being said, the unhappiness of the community about this is for several reasons:
1. We are constantly told that these types of facilities will have extensive staffing to make sure that nothing happens. And we are constantly hearing about residents of these facilities behaving inappropriately, from minor nuisances up to committing crimes. So pardon us for being a bit skeptical.
2. The close proximity to a school really is an issue. Again, we speak from experience. Residents of these types of facilities often tend to hang out outside. Many of them have demons that they are fighting, and this should not be done in close proximity to children. I am not saying they should just be treated like garbage and thrown away. But it should not be done across from a school. If this was at the far end of the block closer to Amsterdam I still wouldn’t be thrilled, but I would be less upset
3. Those with significant challenges are not best served near where they are living on the streets. If anything, they are best served as far away as possible. Get them away from their dealers, from the other people who are bad influences on them, etc. In many ways, I would feel more comfortable if this facility took the same type of people, but those being moved into the neighborhood from other boroughs so they can hopefully have a fresh start.
4. Ms. Brewer’s demand that it house a much smaller population is a good start.
5. Those of us who oppose this are tired of those who are supportive making us feel evil for opposing it and act like nothing bad has ever happened. There was a cohort of UWSers who refused to admit that there was troubling behavior by those staying in the Lucerne. One could debate what the appropriate answer was, but to put your head in the sand about that is disingenuous. I am much more respectful of someone like you who is supportive of the shelter but at least seems to acknowledge and be respectful of other people’s hesitations – I am much more willing to listen to your opinion, much as you seem more willing than others to listen to mine.
Dear Carol, you are a UWS treasure—not only an excellent journalist but a professional with deep insight from decades working with single homeless men. Your voice of reason will carry us through a difficult time. Readers, please note that the great majority of commenters here are also rational and thoughtful. That attitude is much more likely to lead to a resolution of the homeless shelter situation in our beloved neighborhood. Consider volunteering! Your compassion, intelligence and skills are much needed.
Nicely put, Leon. Another problem is there is no background check being done on the homeless people, and yet we are being reassured that none of them have a sexual history with children. If there are no background checks, a policy of Safe Haven, how can we be sure of these individuals’ history — important as the building is so close to a school. That all of this was was decided under the cloak of darkness, instead of allowing people to discuss it gives pause, as well, I live near the Lucerne, and my children go to school on 79th Street. It was unpleasant and scary when it got dark early to walk past, and police car/ ambulances were there quite frequently because of bad behavior/ problems with drug use. I hope the Safe Haven folks have a better system, and there is a smaller cohort of residents. But I’m worried.
…background checks do not guarantee the future behavior of anyone. Got any more innovative ideas?
Maybe you’re not aware that a small number of criminals account for a large majority of crime; mental illness is chronic; violence is chronic; most homeless victims of violence are attacked by other homeless; and most sex offenders are repeat offenders. This is why they’re given a LABEL, sorry to upset you but we have LABELS for a reason. Doctors, city workers, whoever deals with them, needs to know their history to manage the future. Why? Bc these are chronic issues. So once you commit such a thing, you’re labeled and tracked. Why label a sex offender if you’re not going to restrict them in any way, esp housing! That’s what the label is intended for!
Thanks so much for this.
The comment I hear most about homeless is that they don’t feel safe in the shelters so there they are – in doorways, subways etc etc – and all that that entails for the rest of us like stepping over garbage, human waste, being a little or even a lot fearful for our safety and so on. The safe havens on its face as described above seems like a reasonable humane step forward. I hope it work and is workable for those that truly need help
it’s impossible to fix the shelters which are havens for humanity’s troubles just like any home is a haven for human troubles indoors or outdoors.
Humans bring their respective troubles with them everywhere alongside their education and experiences.
Homelessness is a community dis-ease. It is the final frontier of when we as a society are on display to one another outdoors and in public for all to see including with the hidden traffic cameras watching all of us. We do watch each other suffer regularly and become immune to human suffering on the UWS. When do we do the internal work in our hearts and minds to learn how to cope or change our current conversations?
Thank you West Side Rag for this space, it means a lot.
when public safety is a priority to the people running the city. Without it, no community will work together to fix complex problems. The city has fixed this issue effectively in the past — and those solutions started with … you guessed it: plummeting violent crime rates.
Thank you for your fair and reasoned article and your personal story. Great journalism. I look forward to the report of your discussion with Breaking Ground. I hope it will help resolve some of the concerns regarding the proposed 83rd Street facility that many readers feel. And thank you for your work with the Doe Fund. I see hope in the faces of some of the people in their blue jumpuits working to keep our neighborhood cleaner.
Thank you for this incredibly thoughtful article. While I realize that Safe Haven will face the back of a public school across the street, I am not sure that that should be any more relevant than the fact that there is also a fire station, a Crunch Fitness, a plumbing and heating company and two car rental companies with cars literally driving in and out all day long. This is not a quiet residential street by any measure.
I would feel the concerns of parents would be more valid if the children were entering and exiting the school in front of the facility. However, the actual entrance to the school is on 84th street and staffed by building security. In addition, it is surrounded by a very high fence.
To your point, getting homeless off the street and into a place with services benefits ALL of us. Will we ever get to zero homeless? Sadly, no. But programs like this one help reduce homelessness and improve the quality of life for everyone. In addition, this organization has nothing to do with the previous one that was there. I would much rather see a Safe Haven type organization move in, than have them rejected, leaving an opportunity for the same old crummy and dangerous shelter service to take it over again. This building was a shelter before and is likely to stay a shelter for the foreseeable future, so let’s try and get the safest, most well-run system in there we can!
You rather 108 new homeless people move into the upper west side artificially than have 25 chronic street homeless on the street, who by the way, chose to be there and will stay there? This is not for our homeless ppl. This is to welcome 108 new ones. Who come from somewhere else. Why can’t they be housed wherever they’re coming from? Or wherever they’re from? Why move them to 83rd?
This is not correct. I believe Kindergarten students enter and exit at 83rd Street (and that playground is for them and pre-k), as do Center School students. Historically, I believe Center School students tend to hang out there as well.
If I had confident that the residents would not be loitering outside I would be less concerned. But there is a lot of historical precedent that they will be.
I just walked by the school today and that gate was chained up. Are you positive it is used? It feels like the doors of the school are on 84th st. Is there perhaps a school administrator who can provide some facts about school access?
In addition, is it a fact that they will be transporting 108 people from outside to reside there? Is it a fact that we have only 25 homeless on our streets now? Is it a fact that they all to a person enjoy residing on the streets and none of them want to go into a safe shelter?
I hear a lot of feelings, but I think we need actual facts to make a reasoned decision about this.
@Steen, What is the obsession with the location and timing of doors and the gates? As several have mentioned, multiple schools are located in that campus. There is no “front” to the campus. Hundreds of children enter and exit via both 83rd and 84th Street daily and also walk by both entrances daily. PS9 primarily uses 84th Street. Center School primarily uses 83rd Street. Pre-K and Kindergarten use the playground directly across the street from the shelter. Both schools and their afterschool programs use the back/side yard whose perimeter is in part also directly across from the shelter. Center School students use the 84th corner courtyard throughout the day. The observation of a chained gate at the moment of passing by does not make the passerby an expert on school logistics and absolutely does not confer any authority whatsoever regarding the validity of safety concerns of familes who actually use the school, regardless of which gate!
Yes, go at 8:30 am on a school day and you will see.
Thanks for this. Recently, in a used bookstore, I came across a beautifully written memoir, GRAND CENTRAL WINTER, by Lee Springer, describing his year of living –as a homeless crack addict–in Grand Central Station. Now, when I pass someone in the street or on the subway, I imagine that that could have been Lee Springer. I urge everyone to read this beautiful book.
Thanks for the recommendation. I just ordered it from ThriftBooks.
Thanks, Carol, for a much needed, humane counterpoint to all the hysterical, reactionary panic that so many commenters feel the need to share here. And you raise a very important point: the homeless are already very much among us, without shelter. It’s not like this facility will suddenly produce them out of thin air!
Reactionary?? Bringing in more homeless people to the neighborhood with fewer rules, no background checks, within close proximity to a school. Qualify as reasonable reactions IMHO.
Thank you, I was shocked by the fearmongering comments here on the Rag as well
I am very glad you wrote about your personal experiences with homeless smen. I hope this safe haven will be allowed to open.
Thanks Carol, for your revealing and compassionate essay. I don’t know exactly when it was, but for some time now it has been all the vogue among the entitled class to slam homeless people with impunity.
Women should not feel like their instincts to safety and preservation — or their desire to live in a neighborhood where they can walk solo or with their children and elders without fear — is something inherently bad. Our fear is useful, and nothing to be ashamed of. When we consider how to deal with homelessness as a society, women’s fear is a practical, valuable concern to sincerely engage with, not something to dismiss as an “inner nimby.”
Let’s make sure that whatever happens, we take women’s concerns seriously so that this shelter does not create a de facto “woman’s curfew” that winds up being self-enforced (and then culturally enforced, when women are blamed for walking along “outside” of the socially approved hours).
You just forget the fact that drug dealers follow their prime consumers where they go. So, yes, housing 108 highly potential users will bring dealers to the corner of PS9, just as we saw them on Broadway during the Lucerne terror
When I think about it, none of this seems like a common sense plan to me. With the sky high price of City real estate, the lack of affordable housing, and the cost of competent labor, this all seems like an enormous waste of money and resources. There are dozens and dozens of decaying and depopulated small towns all throughout New York State, and the country. I don’t understand why some organization doesn’t bring people to the country: let them get a really fresh start. Get them away from the drug dealers, the bad family relationships, and the bad influences that caused them to spiral downward in the first place. Teach people trades: how to work with animals, how to work with nature, on farms, in factories, put people to work in town infrastructure jobs, teach people to be self-sufficient. Incentivize, as someone else suggested, teachers, social workers, and mental health professionals to move to these locations as well. Get some decaying small town back on its feet by shaking it up. There’s no reason to crowd people in City locations – turning every spot into a slum — when they are costing the City ridiculous sums of money that are not shared with the hardworking poor, the immigrants, the restaurant workers, the factory workers, the cleaners – all people who aren’t homeless, yet get squeezed out of affordable housing possibilities by folks, let’s face it, who are not carrying their own weight. Arrestees awaiting trial should be moved out of the City. The whole system needs an overhaul instead of just piling problem on top of problem while squandering billions. The Doe Fund was a private, and very clever, venture that works. It was not a City project. Why aren’t there more innovative programs like that and programs that move outside the five boroughs? With apartments costing $20-100 million, and the average cost $2-million, there should be NO homeless facilities in Manhattan at all.
It is appalling that you think you should be able to decide what is best for a population of people that you don’t even know. You get to decide where and how they should live? You get to decide what kind of jobs they are allowed to get?
You want to remove their individual agency because their situation makes you uncomfortable. Wow. It takes a ton of gall to think you have a right to decide what is best for an entire community of people.
Wow. Just wow.
I am beyond shocked at the insensitivity and dismissiveness of this comment. First, bussing homeless to the “country” is absurd. First, as you well know, at least 25%-35% of homeless (and often more) have mental health and other issues that need to be treated, sometimes on an ongoing basis. They are not going to get that treatment living in “the country.” And they are not going to be able to help “decaying towns get back on their feet.” That is ridiculous.
As for “people getting squeezed out of affordable housing possibilities” by the homeless, you have it exactly backward. “Affordable housing” has never been any such thing: the income parameters for being able to get that housing make it IMPOSSIBLE for homeless people – or even the most impoverished – to get it. It is THEY who are “squeezed out” of housing because it is NEVER “affordable” enough, even for many people actually earning money. Why don’t you do some actual research on what “affordable housing” means in NYC, and the level of income one needs even for the “cheapest” such housing?
And your final line is among the most obnoxious things I have ever read. NYC is becoming a playpen for the rich – so there should be NO homeless, and no facilities for them? Are you even listening to yourself?
This is not what I expect from you at all.
Check out these locations which invested in “tiny houses” for the homeless. This cannot be done in NYC, but can be done outside the City.
Historically, the mentally ill were housed in “asylums” outside urban areas:
Ian, UWSers are tired of being asked to accommodate what seems like every mentally ill, chemically abusing person in the Northeast and beyond. It is very stressful to live around this population.
In addition the UWS is an expensive neighborhood to live in for many people, nevermind those who are living on public assistance. It is understandable that people would question why they would place such people in a neighborhood where goods and services are expensive and that people who struggle to live here would be resentful of those who are living here for free.
Thank you, Carol, for this thoughtful post. I hope that other UWSers can similarly keep an open mind about the safe haven facility.
Within days, maybe hours, after homeless men were transported to the Lucerne Hotel, drug dealers arrived on the corners of 79th and Broadway. The benches on the Broadway median became the hangout for the men from Lucerne while they did their drugs and drank. The numerous security guards employed by Project Renewal said they did not have jurisdiction to curtail this activity and the police said they could only arrest the drug dealers if a cop actually saw the transaction – our videos of the deals did not qualify. So, while I applaud the Doe Fund and believe it is the one organization that has actually helped people, I am concerned about this new 83rd Street Safe Haven.
Sadly, a harsh reality is drug users attract drug dealers. Often taking people out of the environment of homelessness and drug use, helps people see there is a way out of the homeless cycle. As much as I wish places like this helped people, all they often do is prop up the behavior that got them there in the first place. In most recovery programs, they promote getting away from bad environments and the people supporting the behavior, all this does is allow people to continue. Add to that, it’s within view of a school and play yard – bad things are inevitably going to happen.
A lot does depend on the service provider. I lived half a block from the hotel used on 87th St between Broadway and Amsterdam to house homeless during the Pandemic. The provider did a fantastic job. They provided outdoor space within the hotel property for the people who lived there to congregate so they weren’t on the streets. You didn’t even know they were there.
Will this one also provide the same sort of thing so we don’t have homeless congregating on the sidewalks across or worse next to the school?
Thank you so much for the article, and I couldn’t agree more with your statement “those years spent with homeless men were the most instructive, exciting, and rewarding of my life.” They were for me, too. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but during my years volunteering with homeless men, I learned that ‘the homeless’ weren’t a different breed than you and me; they were often just people who had fallen on hard times, depression or addiction. I was amazed we could sit and talk about movies, and food, and life experiences. And I realized that many times it was their lack of savings, or a family safety net or proper medical treatment that separated them from many of my friends or friend’s children who ran into problems. Of course a shelter needs rules and supervision, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
Carol, you hit the nail on the head that the homeless are coming from other areas. This is the actual problem. If someone were to say, “we surveyed the UWS local street homeless population and, out of a total of 30 people, 16 decided to come off the street and enter the haven,” and hence the haven will have 16 beds for them plus an additional 20 in case the others change their mind — we would say GRRREAT. They’re here anyway. Better inside than on the street. But that’s not what this is and please don’t pretend you don’t know that. The motive is to bring NEW HOMELESS people here from other places. They should be housed where THEY ARE or where THEYRE FROM! Not imported here. This is called human trafficking to fill beds. This is not the way charity works.
This neighborhood has provided a variety of supportive services and housing facilities since as long as I can remember. In general, many, not all, but many worked just fine. The ones that didn’t were dealt with.
The Lucerne debacle, how it was rolled out, how it was communicated, and how elected officials and some community board members chose to gaslight residents who expressed their concerns changed it all up and sadly this is what has to be addressed before residents on the whole feel more comfortable and welcoming towards this new facility. I attended the Zoom last week and the way it was communicated, the shutting down of voices, the misleading information and refusal to honestly answer neighbor concerns, not least of which, steps being taken to ensure the safety of residents OUTSIDE of this facility, that Their lives and welfare also matter, was a sad indicator for many of what is to come. Why should we trust that this one is going to be any different? Because Breaking Ground tells us that they have 30 yrs of history in this space and this new experimental approach works? Because Shelly Fine tells us he is so excited to partner with this organization? Because Gale was on the call, said nothing even about the process, and only after all the social media outrage, came out with a statement that she has concerns over the number of beds? Why didn’t she say anything on the call and why wasn’t this included in her long weekly emails? Is this respect for a community or a commitment towards fair process? I spoke to many people after this meeting who said to me,“it’s clear it’s a done deal and they just don’t care what we think. They know it doesn’t matter anyway.”
Respect, compassion, and Good Neighbor is a two way street. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their neighborhood.
I look forward to your future articles what we are enjoying as your commitment to research and balanced journalism.
Spot on! Thank you, LN Signer
You nailed it. Thank you.
Yes. I would rather have them housed here than in the street, school nearby or not.
I grew up on the UWS in the ’70s and early ’80s, when it was a neighborhood in which most of current UWS residents would have been too scared to come here. Yes, I received catcalls everyday, but I learned how to handle them; and more important I learned how to have empathy for people who had far less than I did. If you don’t like homeless shelters then house these people or move to the suburbs where you clearly belong instead of bringing the worst of the US to the UWS.
you realize that’s exactly what people are doing: leaving, and the city is facing a budget crisis of remarkable proportions bc they are chasing out the people who pay 90% of the taxes. after you’re done chasing away the wealthy and middle class families — lmk how you plan to fix the pile of problems plaguing the neighborhood and the city.
And FWIW, It’s not even a little bit empathetic to essentially tell your neighbors to shut up and deal with it or leave.
A lesson in empathy: you don’t know everyone’s individual experience with the homeless community or neighborhood violence. Some of us have incredibly good reasons to be concerned. And whether you think so or not, you deserve to live somewhere the public officials living off your tax dollars fulfill their number one job: public safety.
Giving someone housing is empathetic— but there is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting it on your block at a time where public safety is in crisis.
It’s a handout — the city can choose more appropriate locations. There is no benefit to the men who will be housed there to be on 83rd street and it is of no benefit to the neighborhood. There are less residential locations for these shelters — period.
I too am a born & bread UWS’r & yes – it was a scary place then. Needle Park not Verdi Park, tons of SRO’s (de facto shelters) and you could watch crime from the window like I have in the last few years. I wasn’t allowed to go out after dark as a kid and someone always had to go with me in the day. My sister at 6 years old had her purse stolen in RS park…I could go on.
But the crux of the renaissance of this neighborhood was HARD WON!!! It was largely attributable to the reduction of SRO’s which had the effect of reducing the dealers, users of hard drugs in the open and hookers who were part of the neighborhood tapestry and overall crime.
So for some of us-been there done that and frankly I liked it when I could walk unafraid at night.
Sadly since The Lucerne and the palpable downward slide of the neighborhood (it is so filthy rat filled and uncared for) perhaps this is what gives one reason to believe there will be an impact.
The people of this neighborhood rallied and made the city move sex offenders they assured us wouldn’t be placed here – but when women and children were being harassed with threats of rape-we took it very seriously. As we watched them struggle to keep conscious on the streets, making deals & using drugs openly, had hookers & pimps actively cruising around, and needed ambulances weekly to Duane Reade where they would come close to expiring. Oh -did I mention the amount of human feces in the neighborhood and watching it happen right in front of my door as a welcome?! This isn’t hyperbole-this is what happened.
I have volunteered for organizations in the city that are wonderful to their clients and never lose that perspective.
The nonprofit who ran The Lucerne was all too exemplary of the worst of what NY nonprofits provide – the most expensive budget with the least services and care for their clients. It is not without great sadness that we watched this horror of a program give the worst to those most in need and to the community they were in. Further the desire by some to not recognize or talk to these issues (see local leadership) led us to research and learn about the symbiotic nature of nonprofits and local leadership. They get hired by local discretionary budgets and guess who has political fundraisers and hires them if they ever leave their jobs?? In fact that’s the #1 place to be hired after town council.
It’s not altruism it’s greed and power.
I was here then too. It was unsafe. Walking down the street was the kind of adventure I could have lived my life without. I’m horrified that I should be expected to learn how to handle anyone. Sure, I learned but I’m flummoxed as to why that’s my job.
Thank you for your thoughtful and educational narrative. I sincerely applaud your empathetic work with the Doe Fund! It is a wonderful organization and I am familiar with their history and overall efficacy to our community.
My question to you and others in leadership positions at CB7 is: initially the proposal was to engage viz outreach workers, homeless individuals in our catchment area. However, when listening to the first meeting with the Board and Breaking Ground et al there was discussion about engaging ANY ONE and EVERY ONE who indicates wanting a bed and bath. While this is a start, it does not take into consideration the realistic concerns iterated by the community in relation to the issues with psychotic and schizophrenic individuals, that may emerge once at the facility. Such individuals DESERVE treatment modalities that transcend the services proposed and voted upon by CB7. It seems disingenuous to the homeless as well as to UWS residents.
It feels very unethical — rather than feeling hopeful and positive about helping others in need. It feels frightening——-and that is not simply NIMBY. It is realistic given the history of crime and death in this very area, that you and CB7 are keenly aware of.
So, what can CB7 do to reduce the numbers of patients to reassure UWS residents that it will not be a FULL house!???It seems that less numbers of individuals might be a better start——-for helping ——rather than a revolving door policy that was palpable, albeit in a very subtle and nefarious way.
Finally, let us please remember the youngsters who presently appear happy and joyful when I pass the school to run an errand. Now, the proposed environs are going to dramatically change, and I believe that CB7 members should be held legally responsible for ANY disruption to the students, teaching and other staff, as well as the community at large. It may have to result in a class action suit. UWS residents may feel like hostages——similar to the Stockholm syndrome documented in the psychological literature circa ‘70’s, which undergirds the response to heightened anxiety and trauma.
Thank you, for all you do.
thanks for the excellent background Carol. very helpful and informative
two blocks and one avenue away is not exactly a backyard scenario in uws
Keep in mind that Breaking Ground is (like all other massive operators of any homeless-related facilities) first and foremost a BUSINESS, and one with pretty much no oversight. Also keep in mind that it was a DONE DEAL way before the community was even aware of this, and Gail Brewer’s “concern” about the number of unscreened men moving in will remain just that – an impotent “concern.” The UWS has the largest number of homeless services facilities – BUSINESSES – that keep getting multimillion dollar funding – again, with pretty much no oversight. All of them also were a DONE DEAL way before the decisions were made public. So neither the elevating articles nor the opinions of the readers matter: it’s a DONE DEAL. Everything else is a decoration.
Troubled NYC shelter operators have scored $4 billion in city contracts, records show:
The more you know the more you will wish you didn’t because we are powerless to change it😩
To illustrate just 1 instance:
Carol Heartwarming story and you should be applauded for your compassionate work in service to other less fortunate. You remembered your amazing friend which gave you the courage to share your opinion to support this project. Your kindness SHINES!
As a counterpoint, I should share mine as well. The genesis of my opinion comes from my experiences working with individuals who have been innocent victims of physical and emotional harm, often as a consequence of street crime by some who suffered mental illness. I recount their painful memories too graphic to share and it guides my moral compass quite differently than yours.
More poignantly, let me find some courage to also disclose I still recount my own painful memory of assault, some 60 plus years ago, which took place not too far from a schoolyard in the Bronx. This inner voice screams out against my conflicting NIMBYism and compassionate nature. I do not believe in the efficacy of this project as presented. Respectively, this is no DOE FUND, and it certainly does not belong in full view of a children’ playground. If so, you would not be hearing such community outrage and mine.
Carol, I am thankful for your kind and objective nature, but I am especially grateful to my compassionate neighbors who are speaking out in advocacy for the safety of our beloved west side community. We can do better for all concerned.
Doe Fund is a wonderful organization that has quite a number of rules required to participate in the program. Sobriety top of the list. This is a very different population.
It is easy to show compassion when you don’t have small children and are not retired. How many families would agree with the the message of the article?
I will not attempt to re-litigate the situation with the Lucerne, except to say that most of the comments here in that regard are either inaccurate or hopelessly hyperbolic. There were issues, yes. But they were never as bad as some people make them out to be.
As for the present situation, Breaking Ground has done good work throughout this City and elsewhere. No provider is perfect, or can control every jot and tittle of what occurs at their facilities. Like any other provider of a service, they can only do their best.
In this regard, I know a few people who live in Breaking Ground facilities, and they all say that the organization is a comparatively good one, providing safe environments for their residents, and, yes, maintaining concern and vigilance with regard to the surrounding communities.
Do problems occur? Yup. But, again, no provider can give an ironclad guarantee that NO problems will arise. So please let’s not get ahead of ourselves and hyperventilate over what “might” happen.
With regard to the school, as someone else suggested, this should be of no more concern than the rest of the block: a firehouse, post office, gym, three garages and car rental agencies, three restaurants, a church, several private businesses and several residential buildings. Why would anyone think that the homeless persons who will take up residence in this building are in any way “dangerous” to the children in the school? Yes, there was a murder at this site under a different provider. But it was an internal situation, and had nothing to do with – and did not affect – the school, its staff, parents, students or anyone else. Even if the residents “hang out” in the area, that does not make them a danger to anyone – any more than they would be a danger to the same people if they were living on the street two blocks away.
I do agree with one commenter who suggested that street homeless are not served best by remaining in the area they have been inhabiting. In fact, even polling of the homeless themselves has shown this to be true.
I also agree that the facility needs to have very good – and enforced – rules, and a sufficient and well-trained security staff to handle any internal or external issues. At the same time, the residents are adults and should not be treated like children. So there needs to be a balance. But there definitely needs to be a reasonable guarantee of safety and security.
Many people here know me from my work with the Lucerne homeless, and with the street homeless on the UWS in general. But I am not, and have never been, the naively unqualifiedly tolerant person I am perceived to be. Nor have I ever dismissed or been unwilling to listen to other opinions or concerns. My reactions at the time were to the unnecessary, unhelpful and occasionally mean-spirited vilification and lack of compassion for those in need. That doesn’t make anyone “evil,” or make their concerns any less real.
Thankfully, in this case – unlike the situation with locating homeless people in hotels during the worst of the pandemic – at least we all have a chance to weigh in, express our concerns, and hope that the provider will “do the right thing” in addressing those concerns BEFORE anyone takes up residence there. In that regard, I also agree that the number of residents needs to be decreased.
As a resident of 83rd Street for over 55 years, one who went to that very school and was president of the Block Association for a few years during my tenure on the block, and as someone who is on that block often, I have a very personal stake here. However, I support this facility – with the caveats noted above.
Wanting your neighborhood to be safe and clean does not make you a NIMBY.
I believe this is your right actually. A human right. And you pay taxes so that services are provided to ensure this. Includes sanitation amd police who enforce laws that keep a neighborhood clean and safe. If there are people who cannot follow the rules of society the last thing they deserve, in my opinion, is more freedom to do their thing, where they want to live, and on the tax payers dime.
This statement is the sell for convening the neighborhood but it hinges on one word: likely.
“The safe haven is indeed across the street from a school. But some of the homeless likely to move in are already in the neighborhood”
Much of the homeless on upper west side have been moved to shelters and elsewhere already due to previous outcry. Are there some? Yes. Do I see them camped in front of schools? No. And if they are in your doorway, you should call 311 or 911 and ask for help bc that’s private property.
If I trusted the people running our city and neighborhood to do their part, I’d be more supportive of the location, but simply put: there are more appropriate locations. People are not going to sacrifice their safety much less the safety of their children for a tried and failed idea. Even with the writer’s less than convincing argument of having once made a friend in a shelter… of course there will be some good residents there. Does that make me feel better about my child walking by there to get to school? No.
Homelessness in NYC has become an industry and a lot of people are making money off it through organizations that receive city money and positions being created in city government. There is little motivation to fix the root of the problem or make it difficult for ppl to live on city parks and sidewalks.
If the issue of drugs, mental health and crime were being addressed many is us might be open minded — but this isn’t the 1950s. You can’t fix homelessness or public safety without pairing shelters with more police and other barriers, support systems and other steps of accountability.
Unfortunately the city is putting UWS families — and the city — in a lose lose situation.
UWSer and advocate of the safe haven here. There are countless opportunities for kids in New York City and this neighborhood to encounter the unhoused and impoverished, demons and all, in doorways, trains and parks. As I see it, knowing from a young age that people with problems have solutions to turn to, right within their neighborhood, is better than the message we are sending with further marginalization and scapegoating.
The issue of school proximity is overblown for the sake of argument, and ultimately this is a fight between the compassionate and the callous. 10024 has one of the whitest, wealthiest population in the five boroughs, a place where one can easily forget that this city belongs to all of us. It is a civic failure and a human rights failure to not address the issue of homeless with a multitude of resources and tactics, safe havens being an essential one of them. Keep in mind this is already a site that provided services to the homeless and the school was there in 2019, too.
These places are important. I just don’t get why they need to be in Manhattan where there is already a massive housing crisis. Seems like they could fit a lot more people outside of the city entirely, and it would also cost significantly less.