According to CB5 member Margaret O’Kane, the encampment is made up of mattresses and blankets stretched out on the concrete next to debris. She said the homeless people using the space are “volatile and quite dangerous” when they drink.
“People are afraid to wait or get off the bus there,” she said.
O’Kane said employees from the nonprofit organization Breaking Ground have repeatedly tried to convince them to find shelter, but they have refused.
“Are we going to let them lie there until they freeze to death, or are we going to do something?” she added. “It’s dangerous, it’s unsightly and it’s bad for them.”
Ted Renz, a CB5 member and executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), said the homeless individuals used to hang out next to a nearby deli. He said they regularly harassed customers.
They then moved to a bench near the Ridgewood Post Office, Renz said, before moving to the new encampment under the trestle.
Renz said he’s been in touch with the police, Councilman Robert Holden’s office and other city officials. Though there have been repeated attempts to convince the homeless to find shelter, they have refused.
“There is nothing we can do, we are very frustrated by this,” he said. “It’s an ongoing issue.”
CB5 chair Vincent Arcuri said the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) told them they can’t force the homeless to do, only offer them services. Arcuri flatly said the city’s homeless services “suck,” and that they have “no idea what to do with people.”
“This mayor is a total disgrace to allow people to live on the streets, endangering themselves and others,” he said. “The city is in total disarray.”
District manager Gary Giordano said even in cold or freezing weather, the city is legally not allowed to remove the homeless from outdoor locations.
“It’s a legal issue,” he said. “The law would have to be changed to remove a person from the street.”