By Carol Tannenhauser
Two local politicians who represent the Upper West Side told the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) on Monday that its plans to house 108 homeless men and women in a controversial West 83rd Street “safe haven” may violate state and city requirements for single room occupancy (SRO) dwellings.
In a joint letter to the department, City Council Member Gale Brewer and State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal asked the city to review the Multiple Dwelling Code, as well as the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, “to ensure compliance.”
The city intends to place up to four people in a room at the safe haven, but the New York State Multiple Dwelling Code, Section 248 (12), stipulates that “No room may be occupied for sleeping purposes by more than two adults.”
“There is no question that New York City needs more beds for individuals experiencing homelessness,” wrote Brewer and Hoylman-Sigal, “but the planned four beds per room at the 83rd Street facility raises significant concerns.” In addition to the dwelling code requirements, the two politicians said there are practical reasons for reducing the size of the population at the safe haven: “We know from conversations with safe haven residents and outreach workers that people are more likely to utilize the housing, and the support services that come with it, if rooms are limited to one or two beds,” they wrote.
The number of residents planned for the facility is one complaint raised by opponents of the safe haven. So is its location, at 106-108 West 83rd Street, which is directly across the street from an elementary school and a middle school. At a small protest in front of the facility last month, one woman said bitterly: “Clearly, we’re going to have to start picking up our kids again.” But some neighborhood residents have said they welcome the facility as a way of providing shelter and services to those who live on the streets. After the protest, Open Hearts, a nonprofit organization that advocates for homeless individuals citywide, set up a “free store,” offering toiletries and socks, saying it would provide such items once the city begins moving residents into the shelter
Even though the city’s plan calls for the first homeless to move in before the end of April, Community Board 7 postponed until May 2 a vote on a resolution that would put on the record the community’s position on the safe haven. The resolution concurs with Brewer and Hoylman-Sigal, stating that, for several years, the board has been requesting “a safe haven that meets best practices for the population being served.”
But the board’s resolution, as currently worded, also calls for a significant reduction in the number of beds. The safe haven should house no more than 84 people, in single and double rooms, the resolution says. The first 80 residents are currently scheduled to begin moving in at the end of April, with the last 28 coming in the summer.
People come to the neighborhood to be homeless. We should only help people from the neighborhood that became homeless
The people expected to move in to the Safe Haven at 83rd Street and Columbus, are not permanent residents. Rooms are available as needed or as desired. No restrictions or regulations apply to them in a first come first serve basis. Expect to see a high volume turnover of people with no criminal backgrounds checks, with problems far beyond lack of housing, and accountable to no one, hanging out across the street from an elementary and a middle school. Homelessness is inhumane, is horrific and it is tragic. This arrangement is also a tragedy happening in our neighborhood and to our children for years to come.
Not a word about the proximity to a school and to school aged children of violent felons, sex offenders, acutely mentally ill persons, and substance addicted persons?
Voters on the UWS must demand that their voices be heard, and that their safety and quality of life be both heard and respected. And acted upon.
A vote for Gale Brewer is a vote for corrupt incompetence.
I appreciate the efforts of the local politicians to make this at least slightly better. They should be doing a lot more, but at least it is a step.
I do not see the need to rush this. No one should move in until there is adequate staffing. This is what led to the Lucerne debacle. In that case, we were in the middle of a pandemic so though it was not handled well, I understand the need for speed. In this case, though we want to shelter people sooner rather than later, they are setting themselves up for problems by rushing it.
Here’s an idea – wait until school is out to have people move in. That way if there are any problems, they can be resolved before students return.
Also, I don’t understand why Open Hearts and the other neighborhood do-gooders can’t spread their good will in other parts of the city. They are insistent on having it be in their backyards.
100+ homeless people with no background checks hanging around literally steps away from a school. Sheer madness.
Brewer and Hoylman-Sigal have placated their constituents opposed to the refuge. Now let them turn their attention to seeking a new site to address this humanitarian crisis.
For those keeping score, if the occupancy is cut in half, that’s 54 people who would have to sleep in shelters or on our streets vs in a supportive facility. Great work everyone!
These people do not stay in the shelters (or “supportive facility” as you seem to prefer)24/7. They are out on the streets during the day, unaccounted for, unsupervised, likely unmedicated. Why do you continue to obfuscate that point?
And only one of those 54 (or 108 as you seem to prefer) convicted felons, mentally ill persons, or substance dependent (or ‘occupants’ as you prefer) punches an elderly man or woman in the face, or sexually assaults a school child, or stabs a store clerk, or strong arm-robs a teen, the responsibility will like with people like you, and the politicians who preside over the decline of the UWS.
Are you taking into account the number of homeless who are afraid of NYC shelters?
And how does it change the picture for us, the locals?
You do know that these individuals aren’t brought into existence by this facility right? They are already living here just without any suitable housing.
That’s not true. I have walked every block in a mile radius from this shelter, and I could not find 108 homeless people.
The objective should be to maintain public safety and provide comprehensive care (shelter, nutrition, medical care, therapy) at affordable cost to individuals who do not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves.
That means relocating people who cannot be responsible for themselves to a facility OUT of the city, where costs would be lower, risks to the public would be lower, and stresses and triggers that cause acting out, reoffending, and relapse to be lower.
Homeless individuals are often both vulnerable themselves AND a threat to the public. They need to be put into an environment where they can receive care, and where they do not represent a threat to the public.
Too many voices (such as yours) seem to only want to make homeless individuals a number on a list to boost funding and contracts, the proceeds from which benefit unscrupulous BILLIONAIRE landlords, corrupt ‘non-profit’ executives, politicians on the take, and to a far lesser degree the grunt social work types scraping the bottom of the salary barrel.
As You Prefer, I agree totally with your post!
It appears that this website is simply a place for individuals to voice their thoughts and feelings. While that is helpful, It appears that West Siders are resistant to a Call for Action to respond to this matter with a legal intervention. That is the only option that could place a temporary pause in efforts to improve the proposal. Where is everyone?
The boomers have LOST their courage and their ability to create change.
I will not be posting in the future as airing grievences and taking no responsibility to change the paradigm is futile. Thanks for your thoughtful input. Sad that it can not be utilized to facilitate a process that helps…..EVERYONE! All best.
I would appreciate it if the West Side Rag could do some research into the effects that moving homeless people into a neighborhood has on women.
What is the actual data? Genuine question.
Common sense makes it seem like this choice will have dangerous consequences, but if that’s not the case, I would love to know. Can a reporter to dive into this? I, and many others, want to know how the increased number of homeless people will impact women’s safety. Thanks.
There have been homeless men living on the street for as long as I can remember. During the height of Covid there were 8-10 men in an encampment in front of my building, and at one point it spread from WEA to TJ’s on Broadway. Some of these men willingly accepted help from the GA and some were taken away in an ambulance, but I still see several of them in the neighborhood. Why would housing them and providing them with food and services cause more dangerous consequences?
Why does housing them make it less dangerous? And— because you take that number and multiply it by 50 with strangers. The long-standing homeless people who have been here for 50 years have more respect for the neighborhood and care abt the area than some random dude transported by the DHS from who knows where.
So you would take away this opportunity of housing for the ‘long-standing’ homeless people in the neighborhood, just to stop outsiders from coming here? Keep in mind that anyone can get on a train at any point in time and make themselves part of this neighborhood, without DHS transporting them here.
My parents have worked for thirty years in this country and cannot afford to live on UWS even though they very much would like to. Why should we give preference to homeless and ex-convicts over hard woking Americans?
It seems lately the Upper Westside is doing a lot for housing homeless people, I’m curious why other neighborhoods are not pulling their weight and doing their share of housing? I see daily people on the street asking for money, holding doors at banks restaurants etc begging for money people coming right into restaurants and pizza shops begging for money people yelling on the street etc etc and this is in the daylight! The neighborhood is no longer safe, does not feel safe for adults, parents or their school age children. Perhaps the powers that be can concentrate on other neighborhoods for a change besides the Upper Westside which used to feel safe and now no longer feels that way for quite a while.
Just a few weeks ago the Rag featured an article on crime in various NYC neighborhoods the Upper Westside had the highest increase while other neighborhoods were down,
Please tell us how to get involved so the people who live here can have a voice too!
The UWS is constantly being chosen to care for the homeless! How about Chelsea, Tribeca, Noho and Soho and how about the Upper East Side? We folks on the UWS are too kind, too compliant, too acquiescent! Dropping so many homeless with undesirable histories radically changes the neighbourhood. These people have no long-term interest in caring for the neighbourhood, contributing to it, making it better.
Think more broadly. How about Rochester? Fargo? Indianapolis? I don’t understand why this is solely our problem. They can be housed and/or cared for at a much lower cost in other places, and for those capable of working, there are many places that are in desperate need of workers.
Every place has their own homeless population even here where I live in the middle nowhere in Kansas! Please don’t send yours to us! It’s a national problem that doesn’t appear to have a solution.
Every block has homeless people pan handling. The DHS wants to believe that if you give them a room; they will become normal and disappear. They just go in at night. Nothing else changes.
People who are likely to be staying at the safe haven are more scared of the UWS Karens than anyone in the neighborhood should worry about safe haven clients. Since when do we background check NYC residents for where they live? This notion is offensive and frankly racist.
To add to the discussion….my friend’s brother has been homeless for years. He has mental health and addiction issues. His family has tried to get him help – but he has refused. What a tragedy – he was a beautiful loving child . After worsening violent incidents, his family will no longer allow him to come to their homes. They’ve given up.
So his family feels he is unsafe and they have given up.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is forced rehab and/or forced institutionalization. If he’s so dangerous his family won’t let him near them, why should we, innocent bystanders who don’t even know him, have to risk OUR lives by housing him here?
landlords are permitted to screen potential tenants, and screening includes background checks (including criminal history)…..
Frankly racist? I’m sick and tired when people casually drop this world. I’m a person of color and I don’t need cappuccino liberals to virtue signal abusing this word.
Calling women Karens is actually offensive.
Worrying about Safe Haven clients is natural and sane. Calling people names and fanning racial tension to make your point is not.
Agree — background checks are permissible and legal and so long as they are applied equally to all classes of people they aren’t a problem and aren’t RACIST! Stop using that label when it doesn’t apply…
Well said! Bravo! You are speaking honestly and courageously. Thank you Raj
for your integrity.
Is it offensive to get a background check for a speeding ticket? Many criminals get caught that way. You can also get handcuffed and arrested for not paying the ticket.
Majority of ppl residing in tony UWS buildings including at west 83rd street filled out applications for coop boards, for bank mortgage, letters of recommendation for both rental and buying – for numerous reasons. This is why this isn’t a ghetto. People here have been verified. Some are still loony tunes. Some are bad ppl. But the majority have been verified at some level. You cannot draw a comparison to the unverified, unnamed, undocumented, unfinanced, un-recommended mentally ill strangers.
“Majority of ppl residing in tony UWS buildings including at west 83rd street filled out applications for coop boards, for bank mortgage, letters of recommendation for both rental and buying – for numerous reasons. This is why this isn’t a ghetto.”
IT IS A GHETTO…of condo and coops people who don’t want poor neighbors. That is after your conversions kicked people to the curb. What do you want to do with them?
There are plenty of white homeless people as well. Please stop turning something into a racial issue that is not.
There unfortunately is still way too much racism in the world today (as demonstrated by the idiotic shooter outside Kansas City). But you trivialize it when just throwing the term around inaccurately.
Why is it racist to be concerned about safety of one’s kids?
Since forever. Ever heard of a credit score? A coop board interview?
I agree with all the comments posted here. Why not wait until school is over? Where is the public health longitudinal research data related to local residents?; the placement numbers sound off. But, what really makes me feel so angry….yes…,angry….is that there is NO concern by Brewer et al being expressed regarding the fact that residents will not be vetted! Floating in and out of SH at their whim! Who is going to evaluate goals and mission? If, you look on Safe Haven’s website they list 10 pages of job openings at their various placements which suggests a high turnover in staff. Can’t keep good service helpers for little money. Only the TOP staff are making big bucks. I project that the SH residents will be spilling all over Columbus Ave. Then? When the local eateries are impacted? Small coffee shops and other businesses exit? You will see the diaspora of local residents en masse. Thank you Brewer and colleagues for your incompetence, indifference and desire for power to pretend you are doing something positive when in reality it is what Katherine posted: “sheer madness!”
The whole point was to have open beds for anyone in need of shelter – TO POP IN! Why would they fill every bed? They should be keeping 30 beds empty, out of respect for the 30 UWS street homeless people who we all know won’t be using this safe haven.
I don’t want to come across as ungrateful for Brewer/Hoylman effort, but I don’t believe for a second in their intentions to do something positive for the neighborhood. Number of people in the room? Are you kidding me? It is across from a primary school!!!!
If Gale Brewer is involved in something, you can be assured or is solely self-serving and will impact the neighborhood in a negative way.
Here’s another proof. She is trying to come across as involved in the project and looking out for her constituents. She is not. She didn’t question placing unvetted residents next to a primary school. Just a year ago unvaccinated were not allowed in the school yard, yet mentally ill next to the entrance are fine.
This is absolutely insane that they are getting away with putting four to a room originally meant for singles.
Any lawyers in this group who know housing law? I don’t. But, think a TRO is warranted with the numbers of unvetted residents proposed. Help! I am being censored by Brewer’s staff.
Yes, please help us to get the process started.
During the bad old days of much worse crime in the 1980s, my neighborhood fought tooth and nail against a methadone clinic on 110th Street, off of Broadway. All the expected predictions were floated: crime, addicts, etc etc. It opened nonetheless.
I walked by that clinic at least twice a day for the years it was open. The clinic did a good job of keeping things in good order. Had I not known it was there, I doubt I’d have noticed it.
As for the proposed safe haven, the fears of the neighbors and parents of school children are, of course, reasonable and well-placed. But the growing number of hungry, homeless people in the streets is far more frightening and threatening.
Not all homeless people are addicts or criminals.
Bear in mind that even a few days and nights in the street, without a place to sit or lie down, to wash or go to the toilet, or without food to eat, will turn a “middle class” looking person into a hagard mess (How “hangry” do you get after just a few hours without food?). Add to that the trauma and depression of losing a home, and what do you expect?
Rather than agitating against the whole project, work on getting systems put in place that will create reasonable conditions and safety measures both for the residents and surrounding neighborhood.
We heard million times how the things were in 1980s. We don’t want our children to live like that.
Believe me, I don’t want to live like that either.
Concentrate on all the weed stores in that vicinity and the long term effects on your children’s health
Funny-can’t find a floor plan anywhere online but there is a picture of the proposed 4/room setup and there is absolutely no privacy, it is sterile and creates the same concerns that it claims to minimize. Compared to a room at The Belnord or The Row…it’s insulting to the clients and taxpayers.
There are photos in this previous story from the WSR: https://www.westsiderag.com/2023/03/01/cb7-committee-backs-new-supportive-housing-on-w-83rd-st-to-bring-homeless-indoors