Cailley LaPara

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On August 27, members of the Bushwick-based community group Bushwick Neighbors United issued a press release announcing they sent a cease and desist letter to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) compelling them to “cease and desist all work” on the new men’s homeless shelter set to open soon at 97 Wyckoff Ave. This is the latest in a string of actions taken by residents living near the shelter site to prevent the shelter from opening.

The letter, dated August 20, claims that DHS “has failed to complete the legally mandated reviews regarding the Shelter,” including a Fair Share Analysis and environmental impact reviews. The letter also states that the residents “intend to pursue all legal rights and remedies,” if DHS does not halt construction on the site.

On August 28, after the letter and press release were issued, the Bushwick residents received the results of a Fair Share Analysis on the site, which stated that “the Facility [at 97 Wyckoff] to shelter homeless single adults is not expected to create or contribute to a concentration of like facilities that would adversely affect neighborhood character.”

Bushwick residents’ concerns over the opening of the new shelter, which will house 82 single adult men over the age of 50, began in March when DHS announced the shelter proposal. Bushwick residents maintain that they do support having facilities to house the homeless but worry that Bushwick already has its fair share of shelters and that adding another would be detrimental to the neighborhood.

Homeless Shelter map, courtesy of the DHS.

“[Homeless shelters are] a greatly needed aspect of the society that we live in,” Daniel Lavotshkin of Bushwick Neighbors United told Bushwick Daily. “What we’re not happy with is the unilateral and subjective placement of this particular shelter. And we feel that some laws and statues were circumvented, and there was no transparency in the process and that it was unilaterally placed in this location that we do not believe to be the best one for this particular shelter.”

According to the DHS’ Fair Share Analysis, there are two existing DHS shelter facilities within a half mile of the 97 Wyckoff site. When the shelter at 97 Wyckoff opens, Bushwick will have 12 shelters in operation, although three of them will be closed by the end of 2023.

The concentration of shelters in Bushwick sits somewhere in the middle of Brooklyn neighborhoods. At the extremes, Community District (CD) 16, which includes Brownsville, Broadway Junction, and Ocean Hill, has 24 shelters. At the other end, CDs 10 and 11—Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Mapleton—have zero shelters, according to the DHS’ shelter map.

In a statement responding to the cease and desist letter, DHS expressed hope that “these individuals [at 97 Wyckoff] will be warmly welcomed—and through collaborative support and compassion, we will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet.”

Attempts to reach the DHS were currently not answered.

Cover photo by Cailley LaPara for Bushwick Daily.

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