NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The latest battleground in the homelessness problem is the East Side of Manhattan, where City Hall is hoping to transform a historic hotel into a shelter for hundreds of families.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, many people living in and working in Kips Bay are fuming, saying the city blinded them with a decision to turn Hotel Chandler into a homeless shelter.
“They basically said, ‘This shelter is going in regardless of what you say, and if you don’t like it, you don’t like homeless people,’” said Jennifer Liebman of Kips Bay.
Hotel Chandler, at 12 E. 31st St. off Madison Avenue, will be flipped into a 300-bed traditional homeless shelter for families – all over the age of 18.
The area is already home to the troubled 800-bed Bellevue Men’s Shelter on East 30th Street, the Mainchance Shelter on East 32nd Street, and seven other hotels with the capacity to hold more than 1,200 homeless individuals.
“It makes it really scary raising a family here,” said Lauren Pohl of Kips Bay. “Walking around at night, we’ve seen so many acts of lewd behavior.”
“I think it’s much better than having people loitering on the street with nowhere else to go,” another resident said.
The Department of Homeless Services met with the community to address its concerns. But residents called the meeting pointless.
“Isn’t this a done deal? Isn’t this all just BS?” said neighbor Edward Liebmann. “You guys aren’t really listening to us, are you?”
“They don’t want our input,” said neighbor Evan Rofheart. “They want to just run this thing and they feel they can just drop it here.”
The Department of Homeless Services declined CBS2’s request for an on-camera interview, but said it plans to open 90 new homeless shelters in the next five years.
Former Deputy Commissioner for Homeless Services Robert Mascali said communities getting their fair share seems unrealistic.
“They have a crisis on their hands. They don’t know where to put the people. They’re spending $500,000 a day on hotel rooms,” Mascali said. “It’s really gotten out of control.”
Because they feel the city isn’t listening, residents say they’re worried more homeless shelters will continue to pop up in their neighborhood. The one at Hotel Chandler will open in January.
The Department of Homeless Services is creating a community advisory board for the Hotel Chandler shelter. The board will meet regularly to address community concerns as they arise.