The Greenpoint homeless shelter saga took a bizarre turn this week with conflicting reports on the shelter’s official opening.
City Councilmember Steve Levin visited the site at 400 McGuinness Boulevard and discovered that the assessment center was partially functional with 20 beds already filled. The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) would not confirm that the center had opened, and an employee of the Bowery Resident’s Committee (BRC), which operates the facility, said that the building is still in its preparatory stages.
“From what I understand, they wanted to have a soft open to iron out whatever kinks there are,” said Levin. “I’m very angry at the Department of Homeless Services because they gave us assurances that there would be open dialogue regarding the operation of any facility and the very first thing they did is open it without telling anybody.”
An advertisement posted on Craigslist last month indicated that the shelter was hiring staff for a September opening. Levin said that he believed that to still be true. However, a DHS spokesperson could not commit to any specific date for a “hard” open, saying only that the facility would be phased in.
On Tuesday, August 21st, the assessment center held an invite-only “open house,” indicating that they were up and running despite no notice to the community and a lawsuit pending against the facility.
In a previous interview, BRC Executive Director Muzzy Rosenblatt touted the transparency of the process of getting the facility established in Greenpoint. Yet local officials like Levin and Assemblyman Joe Lentol both say they were disappointed with how DHS has handled the implementation of the assessment center.
Lentol accused DHS of quietly opening the center as a way to avoid community backlash. He added that he was offered a seat on the center’s community advisory board during a meeting with the department two weeks ago, a position he said he would decline.
“It hasn’t been a pleasant experience for me or any of the other elected officials, or for the community, to hear about the opening of the homeless shelter when we have our own homeless problem that the city’s not dealing with,” he said.
Employees at the center declined to comment, and calls to BRC regarding the opening and word that 20 beds would be assigned to local homeless went unreturned.
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