News Columnist: ‘Shameful’ Crown Heights Homeless Plan

This Sunday, the Crown Heights Revitalization Movement will hold a rally near the armory at Bedford and Atlantic where the city wants to import a homeless intake shelter from Manhattan. According to Daily News columnist Errol Louis, the event will draw a diverse group—”Young and old, black and Jewish, rich and poor”—of Crown Heights residents, since the city’s plan has united the notoriously divided community in dissent. Louis argues that the “shameful plan” is “outrageous” because the men’s shelter at the armory is already one of the worst in the city, allowing, as it does, Level-3 sex offenders to roam the neighborhood’s streets during the day and allegedly turning blind eye to to all manner of violence underneath its roof. Louis argues that instead of bringing the Manhattan homeless shelter to Crown Heights, the city should completely shut down the Bedford facility: “After a quarter century of effort, DHS has brought disgrace upon itself and crime and violence to a struggling neighborhood that deserves better. Instead of compounding its failures, City Hall needs to stop the relocation plan dead in its tracks and focus on cleaning up the mess it has already made.”
Shut Down This Nightmare [NY Daily News]
Crown Heights Doesn’t Want Homeless Intake Center [Brownstoner]
Photo by ambr0sia2003.

0 Comment

  • see this, the poster was right about all the manhattanites coming to Brooklyn in droves.

  • dave,

    I second that!!!

  • Sunday’s forecast is mostly sunny with a high of 77 – good news for the Flea and the protest.

    faithful, you can have your brood help make the signs on Saturday and then join in the rally Sunday. One’s never too young (or old) to fight for a worthy cause.

  • I usually like Errol Lewis, but his arguements here are weak and straight out of the NIMBY playbook.

  • I still have my doubts that political pressure alone can stop this. One of the most important unanswered questions is if not here, then where? The usual response is, “that’s up to DHS”, but if DHS has no realistic alternatives, then this move will likely go through.

  • Just combine the shelter with the off-shore Coney Island Amusement Park. Or they can make a floating homeless shelter that moves through all five boroughs like that pool.

  • Biff, my brood has been recruited. This is definitely a worthy cause.

  • I think this measure should go through. It’s the best thing for everyone, all things considered. The problem is, everyone is only considering what is best for THEM.

  • Hey Gabby how about posting a photo of the ACTUAL armory? I guess brownstoner has another non NYC resident commentator.

  • 10:30, Is it the best thing for everyone because you don’t live here. As a parent, I have a problem with Level 3 sexual offenders living within a 1 mile radius of my children. If caring about my children’s well-being is selfish — so be it!!!

  • Karka, that was a dark post, but I have to guiltily admit to laughing at the vision.

  • I am so glad to see the community talking about this place. It’s truly horrible and absolutely needs to be shut down. How long will the rally last? I can’t get there until 3.

  • Hey, Biff, don’t rule out Karka’s plan, because stranger things have happened in this world. As long as the barge offered a clean, secure environment with a comprehensive range of mental health, substance-abuse, and case management services, it would probably function quite well. Plus, holding 12-step meetings “on deck” would surely increase sobriety!

  • You only need to walk by this place {quickly, I might add} to see how dirty and scary it is because of the drifters hanging around it at all hours with nothing to do. This plan to increase the population of men just let out of prison in Crown Heights is *atrocious*.

    Crown Heights is struggling, and importing yet more of these types of men, who have absolutely no stake in the place, into the neighborhood is a disaster.

    I will be at the protest.

  • Some of the comments on the Daily News website were spot on too. I’ve long believed Bloomberg sees Manhattan as an idyllic spa for the rich serviced by the outer boroughs who only exist to serve Manhattan. He’s not the first to act that way, but he seems to be the most determined. Well, what else can you expect of a man (aided and abetted by the head of CB1)who fought to make sure the memorial at the WTC be as un-memorial like as possible because he felt the residents of Battery Park City would be upset looking out of their expensive windows at a cemetery. And yes- the head of CB 1 actually said that.


  • Brownstoner:

    When Crown Heights neighbors have their march, I hope they bring their kids, which is what parents did when I was a boy in the area during the 1950s and early 60’s. It’s a great way to introduce youngsters to community activism and organization.

    Back then, protests were against blockbusters, predatory landlords, and the City’s planning department who, respectively, fanned racial fears for profit, turned family buildings into boarding houses, and loosened restrictions to enable liquor stores to open on residential corners.

    One march I remember well was held on St. Marks Avenue, probably because it’s a wide street that can accommodate a crowd and is lined with big apartment houses where the neighbors could come out and join us.

    The march was noisy, spirited, racially mixed, and combined kids, parents, and elders. There were drums, banners, and speakers. Fun for us kids, but also serious. All these people, including parents of our friends, distributing leaflets and taking turns to speak at the corner of Brower Park. All this activity responding to the conditions we heard discussed around the dining table. And, of course, there was the surprise and pleasure of watching our parents act in public. Who knew they could be so vigorous and outspoken?

    The Armory a question of NIMBY? Not when Crown Heights is saturated with social services. (I can imagine what my Manhattan neighbors would do if anything like a homeless shelter were proposed in one of our blocks. Now that would be NIMBY — not that Bloomberg would even consider it!)

    Good luck on Sunday. And thanks for helping to bring the old neighborhood — and its spirit — back.

    Nostalgic on Park Avenue

  • 11:04, well said. And nothing like a good game of Marco Polo to make one feel better about one’s situation and optimistic about the future!

  • Ok, if not Crown Heights- then where? (floating barges not included. 😉

  • Every neighborhood – it’s a big city, you know- should do its fair share. Like it or not. there’s plenty of places in Manhattan that aren’t completely residential, and Harlem should not be the dumping ground. And rich neighborhoods should have social services too. Unfortunately I don’t see our elitist mayor allowing that to happen. The nimbyism of the “moneyed elite” has a lot of power behind it.

    The only reason Crown Heights has been so over saturated is because of everyone else’s nimbyism- not ours.


  • Nostalgic on Park Avenue; wonderful post (as usual).

  • “Every neighborhood – it’s a big city, you know- should do its fair share. Like it or not. there’s plenty of places in Manhattan that aren’t completely residential, and Harlem should not be the dumping ground. And rich neighborhoods should have social services too.”

    This is such a typical and unhelpful response, as it focuses only on where the shelter should not be, rather than helping to identify the most suitable alternative.

    If in Manhattan, where in Manhattan? if in wealthy neighborhoods, which buildings? That is why this approach risks failure, because it seeks only to stop, not to solve. At this stage, all DHS has to say is “there is no alternative” and proceed with the plan to move operations to the bedford shelter.

    The armory was chosen because of space requirements and the fact that shelter programs for the homeless already exist onsite. The latter is especially important, because it helps to streamline the new operation.

    In the end, DHS, caring only about furthering their goal of adjusting service delivery, will be convinced only by a sound alternative plan, not another NIMBY protest.

  • 12:13:

    Here’s one. The buildings about to be abandoned by the Police Academy on East 21st Street. They’re big (go through the block) and not far from the existing shelter with its proximity to Bellevue.

    Wouldn’t my family living down at Gramercy Park love it?

    Nostalgic on Park Avenue

  • 12:134- you expected someone to come up with a detailed, fully researched plan in one morning? Your post was a general one and was answered in kind. And frankly, since you’re so intelligent, why didn’t you come up with any answers?

    But for starters, there are underutilized armories in Manhattan. And buildings that needn’t be torn down for yet anothe luxury hotel or fancy condo or bloated office space (of which Manhattan is way too full of). And yes- DHS might respond to a sound alternative plan- although judging by the history of this particular administration, I doubt anything will change their minds.

    But if you’re really so interested in alternatives why ask someone else for answers? Take responsibility yourself and do the research and come up with a solution. In an hour. Good luck with that- don’t forget the maps, building stats and the background checks for violations, transportation hubs, neighborhood services, and feasibility studies. Oh- and, do it for your neighborhood too. Let’s see how much it takes for your nimbyism to come out. My neighborhood’s done its fair share- what about yours?

  • 12:13:

    I’m sorry, I can’t just stop myself!

    I just imagined various family members air kissing the “level three sexual predators” on their way into their new digs.

    And maybe Ian Shrager can contribute leftovers from his Gramercy Park Hotel.

    On the serious side, if moving the shelter to the Police Academy (which is pretty reasonable, I think) sets off alarm bells for any posters here, imagine what people in Crown Heights must feel.


  • we love you Nostalgic!


  • Bloomie and his fellow Manhattanites and their crazed appetite for luxury condos are the NIMBY’s, not longtime residents of Crown Heights on whom Manhattan is trying to dump these people. Please cease with that accusation, it’s totally mentally retarded.

  • It’s great to see that so many posters realize this is not only bad for Crown Heights, but for all of Brooklyn and just plain bad policy by a Mayor who’s trying to shift Manhattan’s problems across the bridge. Errol’s article was right on. Time to rally!!

  • If we close this place, where will the What live?

  • Thanks, bxgrl. You’ve inspired me to list the reasons for moving the shelter to the Police Academy:

    — Proximity to Bellevue.
    — One or two blocks from Cabrini Medical Center.
    — Better subway access from Lexington Avenue subway than current facility.
    — One block from Second Avenue subway (coming soon).
    — Near Baruch College. (Good for higher-education ties and student interns. And did you know that the homeless have a higher college attendance rate than the general population? Maybe they can take courses to help ease them back into society.)
    — Will get my Gramercy Park relatives into a twist. (Big bonus!)


  • I posted this before, but it didn’t appear, so if it does pop up, sorry for the double post.

    The photo above, is of the Armory, 10:31. This bronze placque commorating the fallen in World War 1 is prominently placed on the front of the building on Bedford Ave. When this armory, built as the home for the 23rd Regiment, was used as such, it was alive and thriving as a community center for not only the armory and military use, but for community athletic clubs and events and social events like dinners and dances. I read many articles in the Brooklyn Eagle about track meets, as well as fancy dress balls. Catching the eye of a handsome officer of the 23rd was quite a social coup for local young ladies, at the turn of the century.

    The use of the armory has certainly changed. Until recently, I didn’t know that we had 2 shelters, the other right across the street from the armory, on Pacific. All those accusing us of being NIMBY’s – what other neighborhood has 2 large shelters in a residential neighborhood, across the street from each other? And those aren’t the only shelters, drop in centers, rehab clinics, or other social services here. Crown Heights has contributed our share to the cause of social services, and on the heels of Errol Lewis’ article stating the specifics of what goes on in the armory, enough is certainly enough.

    I agree with 12:35, why are we required to solve the problem of finding other appropriate space? It’s a big city, and only a city agency, or someone who works in, or for, the whole city could possibly be familiar enough with the entire city to intelligently come up with viable alternatives. Nostalgic’s idea of the old police academy sounds good to me, but I’m sure there will be a “good” reason why it won’t be considered.

    The homeless are pawns in this game of sanitizing Manhattan. Homelessness is solved by finding permanent homes for those without. Depending on their needs, that may mean SRO type homes, group homes, or family homes. It may mean intensive followup and a re-introduction into society, or just a second chance. Moving them around so tourists and the well-heeled don’t have to look at them is not helping anyone.

    See you at the rally.

    Montrose Morris

  • Montrose:

    The “good” reason against the Police Academy? The City plans to sell this publicly-owned building to the highest bidder (probably for condominiums)!

    Here’s another idea: Use part of the money gained from the sales of the old shelter and Police Academy to buy the former Salvation Army residence on Gramercy Park South. This empty 12-story building has dormitory rooms, diningrooms, and lounges — ready made for the homeless.

    Plus residents (third level predators included) would get keys to Gramercy Park (the only private park in New York, whose use is restricted to surrounding properties).

    And if my relatives won’t tolerate such a solution, why should the people of Crown Heights accept the Armory?

    You now have two well-situated sites for a new shelter. Build and promote a list of similar properties (maybe through your City Council reps), and see how other neighborhoods respond.

    Maybe, just maybe, the shelter will be kept where it is (and belongs), just to avoid the political fracas likely to ensue.


  • Montrose, NOP, Bxrgl, etc. AMEN. SO SAY WE ALL. See you at the Rally with signs up and bells on

  • See you there!!!

  • A life-long Brooklyn resident for a couple of decades now, I am not aware of any gross incidents occurring in the vicinity of the Atlantic Ave Amory from its residents that could be deemed so unsavory and reprehensible versus any other area. Yes, the residents are poor (health & economically), however, I’ve felt much more safe from them versus walking down other streets in various boroughs where the residents are of supposedly “hi-culture”, employed or “socialized”. Also those for the most part who are residents of the armory are original residents of the neighborhood and/ or culturally closer to the majority of the residents in the neighborhood. On some level I guess that’s why it was easier to place it in that location originally. And, why not assist the Armory residents with opportunities for improvement versus abject behavior. God Is Watching!!!!

    The residents of the Amory will in many instances extend greetings to you, even if some might just want to get into your good graces and acquire a bed for the night, etc. The problem I see is that there are those who want to shun others thinking they are of better graces or origin. Many of those against the Amory or inciting protest just want to protect their own interests (property value, social status, selfishness, ignorance, arrogance). However, what about the many in the neighborhood who weren’t and who still aren’t comfortable with all the so-called new development taking place and all it’s New Residents. I grew up in that area when those same new residents would not want to be caught in the borough, let alone the neighborhood. I also grew up in a period when the unfortunate were respected and respectful. Truth be told I leave quite close to the armory and No I would not choose to live directly across the street from it if I did not have too, but I’ve lived in the neighborhood long enough to know if circumstances meant that I needed too, I wouldn’t really feel that threatened. Those men on average bother No One!!!!! And, personally I was quite happy with them there and when all you new Want-to-be elitist were not. I guess many of you feel successful that it appears you’ve almost eradicated purchasing opportunities within the neighborhood for many of it’s working class as well as nullified property holdings of many of it’s staunch members (elders, etc – OOps, forgot – you’re selfish, uncompassionate, etc).

    I venture to say there has not been an increase in rapes or muggings taking place in the vicinity of the Amory or by its residents. And, knowing what I know I would be more concerned if the residents of the armory were more representative of the many New Residents to the neighborhood and area. And, Is The Latter Why We Should Be Concerned?

  • Montrose, 10:31 here, this morning they had the wrong photo up. They changed it to the correct one thats up now, but didn’t post a comment about the mistake.

  • 7:40:

    Yours is the best post I’ve ever read on Brownstoner, in part because it’s so deeply felt.

    But all New Yorkers need to see the homeless’ humanity, too. It’s not your or your Crown Heights neighbors’ responsibility alone.

    My best wishes to you,


  • 7:40, the argument, for me, is not the existence of a shelter, or a personal fear of those inside. I live pretty close to that corner as well, and I see the better side of my Crown Heights neighbors, as well. I’ve gone by the armory on many occasions when local church vans pull up and distribute hot meals to the men inside and out. I’ve seen people go in with bags of clothes and bedding. And I’ve seen people stop and talk to the men hanging out across the street, or under the armory towers. I’m not talking about furtive drug deals either. We do the best we can here in Crown Heights.

    I am not protesting because of the existance of the shelter, which has been there for a long time. I think it needs to be run much better, which is a post by itself, but its existance is a necessary part of life in this city. I’m protesting the idea to dump the homeless problem of Manhattan on our overburdened shoulders, without a second thought, without consulting or even notifying the community until it was all planned out. That is not right, not fair, and not going to happen without a fight.

    You seem to have issues with the new people moving into CH. Many of these new people are injecting some well needed energy into a community that needs to wake up and realize we aren’t a hidden jewel anymore. Too many of us have gotten used to getting nothing good from the city, and just don’t even bother to protest anymore when we are slighted or treated unfairly. This is our community, jewels, warts and all. ALL of us who live here need to be active participants in our fate. That is not an oldtimer vs newcomer, black/white, or richer-poorer issue. Stop worrying about the motives of those moving in, and let’s all be about the business of preserving, holding onto, and improving our community for the good of all of us.

    Montrose Morris

  • 7:40- I know for a fact many of the people who are going to the rally are also lifelong residents of the neighborhood- not newcomers. Some have lived in Crown Heights for generations and the issue isn’t getting rid of the shelter, it’s Manhattan dumping its problems in Brooklyn. It’s about this neighborhood taking a disproportionate amount of the burden, and especially at a time when the neighborhood is improving.

    And beyond that, the City is not doing much to help these men in the Armory now- why add more of them? And why force them to come out here from Manhattan – how many of them will come so far, especially in bad weather? And how will they pay for transportation? Most homeless people are not criminals, many of them are veterans who deserve much much better.

    I think a lot of people are not just angry that Bloomberg thinks Crown Heights is just a poor unimportant community that must put up or shut up. I think a lot of us are angry that men will be forced into even more hardship, and get even less help.

    The outer boroughs do not exist to serve Manhattan. Manhattan problems must be dealt with by Manhattan.