Greenpoint residents gathered in McGolrick Park last week to protest a new homeless shelter slated for construction on Apollo Street.
Attendees expressed their understanding that more shelters are needed, but voiced criticisms about the lack of community input for planning the new location.
Homeless shelters are not subject to normal land use review because of their special status as an emergency resource.
“As a City Council Member, I don’t have a vote,” Councilman Steve Levin told the crowd in McGolrick Park. “I have approval over ULURP, which is rezonings, but council members do not have an approval over the siting of shelters.
“In the process that we have, there is not an opportunity for an outside entity to stop it, other than through a lawsuit,” he added. “The city could cave to pressure, theoretically, but I’m not going to contribute to that pressure.”
Ahead of their rally in McGolrick Park, over 1,700 people signed a petition calling for the city to halt the Apollo Street shelter until a more thorough community review process is conducted.
“While we support the City’s efforts to house the homeless, we believe that locating 83 to 97 Apollo street and 106 Hausman Street for the homeless is not fair to our community,” the petition reads. “No public meetings were held in the community about the shelter being built, we did not have a chance to voice our opinion on this matter.”
The petition also discusses the potential impacts the shelter will have on the nearby school, daycare center, and park that are all within walking distance.
The Apollo shelter, which is formally titled the Apollo Safe Haven, will be run by Breaking Ground, a nonprofit that has overseen a number of shelter facilities in New York City since 2007.
News of the Apollo shelter first broke when Breaking Ground filed permits for the site last December. Since then, construction has been progressing steadily.
When opened, the Apollo Safe Haven will hold 148 beds for homeless men.
While Levin is dissatisfied with the lack of community input, he has also acknowledged his support for Breaking Ground and their work.
“If it was a less reputable provider, a provider I didn’t know as well, I wouldn’t be as comfortable,” he said. “I am very comfortable with Breaking Ground.”
Lincoln Restler, the unopposed Democratic nominee for City Council in Greenpoint and Levin’s likely successor, echoed a similar sentiment.
“While the communication to the Greenpoint community about the plans at Apollo Street was wholly inadequate, we should focus now on being the best neighbors we can be to the future residents of the Apollo Safe Haven,” Restler said. “I will do my best to ensure that we have high quality onsite services, a thoughtful security plan, and tight coordination between the new shelter and the neighbors to make this site a success.”