STATEN ISLAND, NY – Assemblyman Michael Tannousis had a stern message for New York City officials on Saturday during a press conference in Grasmere.
“This is not the place for a homeless shelter.”
Tannousis was joined by Borough President Vito Fossella, Mid-Island Councilman David Carr and over a dozen concerned residents outside the site of the proposed women-only homeless shelter.
One major issue the electeds said they had with the Grasmere site – located at 1055 Hylan Blvd. – was the apparent lack of regard for how the shelter’s inhabitants would be integrated into the community. They also voiced concerns about the kind of security that would be on-site.
“This is a recipe for disaster,” said Tannousis, who also pointed out that parking would be challenging with the small lot planned for the space, and that “any room constructed in this facility will be smaller than a Rikers Island cell.”
“Right now common sense is not working here and we’re trying to inject it back in so the city puts the breaks on this thing,” said Fossella, a longtime dissident of the shelters.
“Beyond the impacts on the community, [the homeless shelter is] also going to be wrong for the people that [the city is] looking to shelter here, ”added Carr. “How much space are these people really going to be having here? This agency has the nerve to call this a shelter for fellow human beings. ”
The Grasmere site is one of three planned shelters for Staten Island, which was proposed under former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. It is expected to house approximately 50 single women over the age of 50 without homes – including those with mental health conditions. According to the Department of Homeless Services, 30 employees will also occupy the Grasmere shelter.
The other two planned sites, which expected to open by the end of the year following several delays, are located at 44 Victory Blvd. in Tompkinsville, and 119 Tompkins Ave. in Stapleton.
Dr. Ram Raju, a nationally renowned public health official and former senior vice president of Northwell Health, said the shelter was not necessarily the way to go to help the homeless population on Staten Island.
“The solution of the problem is worse than the problem itself,” he said. “Having that combination of homelessness and inadequate mental health in the city, especially in the homeless shelters, the security and safety of the neighborhood is in deep trouble.
Raju called for transparency from city agencies responsible for the shelter, including the Department of Social Services-Department of Homeless Services (DSS-DHS).
RESIDENTS TURN OUT
The neighborhood residents present at the press conference were in agreement with the politicians.
Cars honked in solidarity as they drove by, with one driver yelling, “Take that homeless s — elsewhere!”
“I learned now that the value of my house will drop by $ 100,000, and it’s not only me, but all over the area,” lamented Hylan Boulevard resident Amir Youssef, 68. “There are so many other places you can find to build this shelter, just not here. ”
Youssef bought his house 18 years ago, and said he worried the homeless shelter would severely lower the property value of his home as he nears retirement.
Homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to the Coalition for the Homeless. Out of all five boroughs, Staten Island hosts the lowest number of shelter beds and has the fewest people without housing. DHS estimates have consistently put the fluctuating number at a little over 1,000.
People have filed several lawsuits against each of the Staten Island homeless shelter sites, but the courts have sided with the city in each of them.