What was supposed to be a 69-unit building of market-rate housing at 200 Linden Boulevard will instead be a homeless shelter for families with children.
Martinez’s first reaction when she heard the news was that it seems the city thinks of her community as a “receptacle for the people they don’t want to deal with.”
“That seems to be all we end up having: homeless shelters and jails,” she said. “There’s a lot more to this community than that.”
Martinez was among more than a dozen residents who rallied outside of the Brooklyn building last Thursday. They spoke out against the city’s plan to convert the building into another shelter, which they believe there are too many of in their neighborhood.
“What it says to me is that the city does not care about the people who live here, nor do they care about the homeless people they’re bringing here,” Martinez said. “The overdevelopment of this community is exacerbating the displacement of people.”
Like many community members who have opposed the city’s previous shelter plans, the East Flatbush homeowner suggested that the city instead use the funding to build new affordable housing.
“If your goal is taking care of the general welfare of New Yorkers, then your goal should be permanent housing,” Martinez said.
Another concern residents in the area shared was the lack of equity in placing homeless shelters around the city. Hassan Bakiriddin from East Flatbush said within the Assembly district covering their area, there are already five shelters.
“We’re not against shelters, but it has to be an equitable distribution,” he said. “And I don’t see the commensurate affordable housing going up. That’s the problem.”
More specifically, Martinez said she feels the city is opening more shelters in neighborhoods “where black and brown people are.”
“I don’t think that’s respectful of our community,” she said.
Worst of all, she said most of her neighbors didn’t know the shelter was coming.
“The city likes it that way,” Martinez said. “Then they get to open shelters in the middle of the night and no one knows why.”
Trisha Ocona, a resident and business owner, spoke passionately about the detrimental effects that shelters have on children who live in them. She also noted that the housing crisis has been exacerbated by the foreclosure problem in the community.
She fears that once a shelter opens, families will stay there for years and won’t have the economic opportunity to find a home.
“People live in shelters for three to four years,” Ocona said. “They can’t get out because there’s no housing.”
Department of Homeless Services (DHS) deputy press secretary Arianna Fishman said the city is implementing a strategy to phase out cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities citywide, including two cluster sites and one hotel in this district.
Those three sites housed 84 homeless families, according to Fishman. With the closing of the cluster sites and commercial hotel, capacity for another 235 beds for the homeless would be lost.
All told, the community would have 495 fewer beds than required to offer the 625 homeless families, or about 1,300 people, from Community Board 17 an opportunity to be housed in the area.
“This high-quality facility will offer 69 families experiencing homelessness from Brooklyn the opportunity to be sheltered in their home borough, closer to their support networks and communities they called home as they get back on their feet,” Fishman said in a statement.