Cailley LaPara

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Bushwick residents have called for a five-year compromise with the city and CORE Services Group on the proposed men’s shelter at 97 Wyckoff Ave., which would cap the operation of the shelter at five years. Residents have also called for a stop work order on the building due to two pending violations involving gas lines and piping. There have been no updates on the stop work order since residents put out a press release on April 25.

According to the press release and the Department of Buildings (DOB), two violations were filed in January that remain unresolved, one for work without a permit, and the other for failure to provide an approved construction plan at the time of inspection. “97 Wyckoff has had a history of additional building violations,” reads the press release. “The violations over the years raise questions about the suitability of the building as it exists.”

Daniel Lavotshkin, a resident of the neighborhood and an attorney, presented the idea of a five-year compromise to Assemblywoman Maritza Davila and Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “They’ve already started construction, already a lot of money has changed hands and I thought it was a practical solution. In nature, [the shelter] is supposed to be short-term for its residents, so it matches with that plan,” said Lavotshkin, who hopes to see the building converted into affordable housing or a community space after the five years is up.

After the men’s shelter was proposed in March, residents in the area banned together in opposition to the shelter, forming an organization called Bushwick Neighbors United. The shelter, which will be paid for by the city and operated by CORE Services, is set to open this month and will house 80 single adult men. Community members have expressed concerns about safety and mounting frustration with city politicians, whom residents feel are ignoring the long-term needs of the community.

Bushwick Neighbors United is particularly focused on Fair Share Law, which stipulates that “to the greatest extent possible, all communities should have their fair share of municipal facilities,” including homeless shelters, according to the New York City Council.

Council Member Reynoso’s office issued this statement on Monday afternoon: “All communities in New York City have a responsibility to do their part in housing New York City’s neediest. District 34 is no exception, and for that reason, I support the shelter slated for 97 Wyckoff Ave. I trust that the Department of Buildings will do its job in ensuring that the site is up to code. Furthermore, on a citywide level, I will continue to champion Fair Share provisions so that no district is unjustly burdened or favored when it comes to land use decisions.”

On June 15, Bushwick Neighbors United will be hosting a block party, open to all residents in Reynoso’s District 34 and Council Member Rafael Espinal’s District 37. In addition to fun, family-oriented activities, the group will host a voter registration table and will be canvassing to inform more community members about the shelter issue. “Everybody’s dumbing down this dialogue to being about the shelter,” said community member Natalia Sacasa. “But it’s the symptom of the problem. The problem is the due diligence that was not done.”

Cover Image by Cailley LaPara

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