As rising rents push more people out into the streets, a scathing report on the city’s homeless shelters in Brooklyn and beyond has found they are dangerous to residents — sometimes life-threatening. The report, conducted by New York City’s own Department of Investigation, described a private shelter system with little to no city oversight, accountability, or controls in place. One of the 25 shelters investigated in the report was King’s Highway in Brooklyn.

The picture painted was similar to that uncovered by a series in the Times and other media outlets over the past few years, which implied the system is rife with corruption, with the city overpaying private operators who do not deliver a minimum level of service. Problems uncovered in the buildings where children were living included a dead rat left in a hall for days, puddles of urine in an elevator, open doors with broken locks, and a broken staircase. Above, the controversial proposed homeless shelter at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens, which has still not opened.

When will the system change? The Mayor has already moved children out of two facilities in Brooklyn, including one in Fort Greene that was the subject of a Times expose. But more — much more — needs to be done, according to the report. The full report can be viewed here.

Do you think it can be fixed? And how?

Report: Probe of Shelters for Families with Children Finds Serious Deficiencies [NYC DOI]
Review of New York Shelter System Finds Hundreds of Violations [NY Times]
City Blasts Its Own $360 Million Homeless-Shelter System [Crain’s]
City Turns “Blind Eye” to Lethal Dangers in Homeless Shelters, Report Says [DNA]


The problem-plagued building designed by architect Robert Scarano at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens is still empty and its future uncertain. The last we reported on the matter, back in October, it seemed the city was on the verge of awarding a contract to shelter operator Aguila Inc. to turn the 10-unit apartment building into housing for 170 homeless men. The plan had been vehemently opposed by the community and local politicians who, after numerous meetings, rallies and a lawsuit, signed a petition, sent in written statements, and testified in person against the shelter at a routine city contract hearing October 17.

Then we heard nothing more. We happened to pass by the building recently and saw a vacate order tacked to the door, dated November 7. (more…)


The city has begun removing children from the Auburn shelter in Fort Greene that was the subject of a Times expose in December, The New York Times reported. The move revealed that de Blasio is planning major changes to the way the city deals with the homeless — changes that are just beginning to take shape.

The city used to refer homeless families to federally funding housing; when that ended, they offered them rent subsidies. But as federal funding for those programs also dried up, the city housed them in shelters. By the time Bloomberg left office, the number of homeless people living in shelters “had peaked at more than 52,000 — the highest number on record since the Great Depression,” said the Times.

That number includes more than 80,000 school-age children who were homeless in 2013.

“There are major American cities that have the same population as we have people in shelter,” the story quoted de Blasio as saying. “We have to look this in the face. This is literally an unacceptable dynamic, and we have to reverse it.”

New efforts will include prevention, a version of the former rent subsidy program using state money, enhancement of anti-eviction legal services for families, and an “aftercare” support program to keep newly housed families from returning to the shelter system.

The Auburn shelter will stay open but for adults only. It is also getting a revamp and a restaurant training program. The shelter has been repeatedly cited for shocking conditions, including “vermin, mold, lead exposure, an inoperable fire safety system, insufficient child care and the presence of sexual predators.”

The city is in the process of relocating 400 children and their families from Auburn and another shelter in downtown Manhattan to more appropriate family housing.

“I think the central thrust has to be getting at the root causes,” of homelessness, said the Mayor. “Greater supply of affordable housing. Pushing up wages and benefits. More preventative efforts.”

Perhaps the city will consider housing families instead of single men on 9th Street in Carroll Gardens, as the community there has requested. What do you think of the new administration’s approach to the problem of homelessness?

New York Is Removing Over 400 Children From Two Homeless Shelters [NY Times]
Inside a Fort Greene Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Photo by Scott Scott Bintner for PropertyShark


In a five-part series, The New York Times followed an 11-year-old girl living with six siblings and her parents in a homeless shelter in Fort Greene. The story contrasts the appalling conditions at the Auburn Family Residence at 39 Auburn Place — it has made headlines for years for having no heat and other problems — with the changes in the surrounding neighborhood. Mice dart in and out of a crumbling wall. A hair dryer warms the baby’s crib.

“City and state inspectors have repeatedly cited the shelter for deplorable conditions, including sexual misconduct by staff members, spoiled food, asbestos exposure, lead paint and vermin,” said the Times. “Auburn has no certificate of occupancy, as required by law, and lacks an operational plan that meets state regulations. Most of the shelter’s smoke detectors and alarms have been found to be inoperable.” Click through to the story for photos reminiscent of Jacob Riis’ “How the Other Half Lives.”

Outside, “the skyline soars with luxury towers, beacons of a new gilded age. More than 200 miles of fresh bike lanes connect commuters to high-tech jobs, passing through upgraded parks and avant-garde projects like the High Line and Jane’s Carousel. Posh retail has spread from its Manhattan roots to the city’s other boroughs. These are the crown jewels of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long reign…as the city reorders itself around the whims of the wealthy.”

The parents are unemployed and have had problems with drug addiction, while the number of families living in homeless shelters has grown since a 2004 Bloomberg policy that no longer gives homeless priority for public housing.

More than 22,000 children are homeless in New York City, “the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America,” said the story. “One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.”

The family is trying to save money to move to Pennsylvania. When asked why families are staying longer in the shelter system, Bloomberg said it was because they offer “a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”

Invisible Child [NY Times]
Photo by Scott Scott Bintner for PropertyShark


City Councilman Brad Lander and seven other Carroll Gardens residents, including developers and architects, testified against the proposed contract with Aguila Inc. to run a homeless shelter in Carroll Gardens at a city hearing this morning. Another 12 submitted written statements, and the Coalition for Carroll Gardens submitted 500 signatures against the contract.

“They felt good about it,” said Coalition for Carroll Gardens chair Steven Miller of those who attended the meeting. He said he expects the city will take about six weeks to review the testimony.

Critics of the proposal have argued that the building at 165 West 9th Street, above, which consists of 10 apartments and one commercial unit, is too small to house 170 homeless men, which would not be allowed under the current certificate of occupancy. Aguila and the Department of Homeless Services have said they would not house any homeless people in violation of city rules or laws.

In January, the owner filed an Alt-1 to change the C of O from J-2 residential to R-1 residential (hotels and dormitories) in January. The permit was approved in March, and is now on hold with a notice to revoke dated today.

City Ignores Community Board Rec on Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Closing Bell: Brad Lander to Give Update on Controversial Homeless Shelter Tonight [Brownstoner]


Councilman Brad Lander and the Coalition for Carroll Gardens will answer questions and provide updates on the controversial proposed homeless shelter at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens at a meeting tonight, according to an email blast from CCG. As you may recall, nonprofit shelter operator Aguila Inc. has said it intends to open a permanent homeless shelter for 170 men in the location, a Scarano-designed building with 10 apartments and one commercial unit. The building, which exceeds its allowed FAR, has been plagued by problems with the DOB and has sat empty for years, although it now has a C of O.

The Coalition for Carroll Gardens appealed to the courts about the shelter proposal, causing the Department of Buildings to look into supposed violations in the buildings, but now those have been cleared by the DOB, according to the Coalition. The City will hold a public hearing on the proposed contact between the Department of Homeless Services and Aguila Thursday at 10 am at 49-51 Chambers Street in Manhattan, where anyone can come and offer oral or written testimony. The proposed contract is for six months four and a half years and $29,987,257.

Tonight’s meeting will take place at 7 pm in the lobby of 505 Court Street.

Carroll Gardens Shelter Owner Makes a Mint off Homeless [Brownstoner]
Carrol Gardens Residents Ask Liu to Stop Shelter [Brownstoner]
Fresh Intrigue Over Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Breaking: Court Blocks Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Controversial Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter Opens [Brownstoner]
Pols, Angry Residents Confront Homeless Shelter Execs [Brownstoner]


The owner or this building at 60 Clarkson Avenue in Flatbush is doing his best to get rid of his paying tenants. No, the building is not going to be converted to condos or torn down for new development. However, this scheme may be just as lucrative–housing homeless families for the city. WNYC reported yesterday that the landlord is evicting paying tenants and leaving the building in a terrible state of neglect. According to the report, the building has 215 housing code violations. The majority of tenants have left the building. According to WNYC, inside the apartment of one of a dozen or so renters who has refused to leave, “The sticky traps in the kitchen…are covered in dead roaches. The insects even make their way into her freezer.  The whole building is dirty and in need of repair.  The elevators smell like urine, and the trash rooms in the hall overflow with garbage.” The tenant pays $700 a month. The city will pay about $3,000 a month (in SROs it will pay $3,000 per room) though a portion of that fee goes to cover the cost of counseling and security. The city is under a court order to provide housing to anyone seeking help and the number of those in the shelter system has grown dramatically since 2011 when the state and city ended funding for programs to help homeless people find permanent housing. The same skewed math is at the heart of the controversial effort to turn the ten-unit building at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens into a homeless shelter for 170 men. The city is now leasing 2,500 apartments from landlords at these rates, an increase of 66 percent since 2011.

To Create Housing for Homeless, Landlords Evict Paying Tenants [WNYC]

The Department of Building intends to revoke the permit it issued in March to allow the owner of 165 West 9th Street to convert the 10-unit apartment building for use as a homeless shelter for 170 men, according to a press release put out today by The Coalition for Carroll Gardens, which opposes the plan. The DOB sent letters to the owners and to local politicians informing them of its intent to issue a stop work order against the owner if compelling evidence to the contrary was not presented by May 31. However, a stop work order has not yet been issued against the property, according to DOB records. The DOB conducted an audit last month and found the filing for the alteration was incomplete, among other problems. Meanwhile, the Coalition for Carroll Gardens’ case against the City has been dismissed because it is “premature,” in the words of CCG because the City does not yet have a written contract with the shelter operator. The Scarano-designed building was never occupied because of problems with the DOB.
Carroll Gardens Shelter Owner Makes a Mint off Homeless [Brownstoner]

A controversial homeless shelter at 400 McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint has upset residents again with the disclosure it is now housing sex offenders, The New York Daily News reported. After years of opposition from politicians and Greenpoint residents (1,500 of whom signed a petition against it), the shelter opened early under the radar over the summer. The facility is used to temporarily house 200 homeless men before they are sent to more suitable long-term shelter elsewhere. “My kids will not be let out of my eyesight,” the Daily News quoted a father of two who lives six blocks from the shelter as saying. “I used to let my 9-year old son ride around the block just to get a little bit of freedom. Now, there’s no way in hell I’ll ever let him do it.” A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services, Heather Janik, noted that the agency is legally required to house all the city’s homeless regardless of criminal background.
Greenpoint Residents Angry Shelter Now Housing Sex Offenders [NY Daily News]
More Details on Just-Opened Greenpoint Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Controversial Greenpoint Homeless Shelter Welcomes First Residents [DNAinfo]
400 McGuinness Is Now Open as a Shelter [Brownstoner] GMAP

According to a story in The New York Times on Friday, the city pays landlords a remarkable sum of money to house homeless people. And one of the major beneficiaries has been Alan Lapes who has been trying to turn the empty condo building at 165 West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens into a homeless shelter. The story shows why a homeless shelter may be more lucrative than rentals, even in a neighborhood like Carroll Gardens. According to the story, the city pays $3,000 a month for each person it houses in single room occupancy hotels–rooms with neither kitchen nor bathroom. About half of that goes to the landlord and the rest goes to pay for security and social services, though there have been many complaints that those services are never provided. Lapes owns or leases 20 of the city’s 231 shelters making him the largest operator and one of the few that is for-profit. According to the story, Lapes has been trying to push out long-term tenants to make room for the homeless and, “at several of Mr. Lapes’s shelters, tenants — both homeless and longer-term residents — say the buildings are often characterized by violence, drug-use, mice, broken elevators, periods without heat and hot water, and violations of fire safety laws.” His efforts to convert the 10 unit Carroll Gardens building into a shelter for 170 men has been met with opposition in the community and the comptrollers office has begun an audit of the city’s payments to the company.

For Some Landlords, Real Money in the Homeless  [NY Times] GMAP
Carrol Gardens Residents ask Liu to Stop Shelter
Fresh Intrigue Over Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter
Breaking: Court Blocks Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Controversial Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter Opens [Brownstoner]
Pols, Angry Residents Confront Homeless Shelter Execs [Brownstoner]

Photo by Pardon Me For Asking

The Coalition for Carroll Gardens continues to fight the plan to convert the apartment building at 165 West 9th Street into a homeless shelter. According to a press release, there are only a few days left before the Department of Homeless Services will push through its proposal to establish the shelter for 170 single men in the 10-unit building and “hundreds of Carroll Gardens residents are appealing to New York City Comptroller John Liu to closely scrutinize this contract.” For the DHS to enter into contract with Aguila, the landlord for this proposed shelter, the DHS needs a sign off from the comptroller. And according to the coalition, “The New York City Comptroller has already uncovered unsafe and unsanitary shelters owned and/or run by Alan Lapes and Aguila Inc.” The residents successfully had a temporary restraining order issued for the building, although the DHS later denied the restraining order went through.

The Daily News reports that six other homeless shelters have opened in the borough in the last two years over significant community opposition in part to accommodate a spike in homelessness which is up 17 percent over last year. A squeeze in available public housing and the end of a $200 million rent assistance program have contributed to the problem according to officials. The proposal for the Carroll Gardens shelter is being reviewed in the courts and the next hearing is scheduled for January 25, 2013.

Six Homeless Shelters Open in Brooklyn in the Last Two Years [NY Daily News]
Fresh Intrigue Over Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner] GMAP
Breaking: Court Blocks Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Controversial Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter Opens [Brownstoner]
Pols, Angry Residents Confront Homeless Shelter Execs [Brownstoner]
Photo by Pardon Me For Asking

The City’s Department of Homeless Services and the Coalition for Carroll Gardens are fighting over whether or not a temporary restraining order was issued concerning the proposed homeless shelter at 165 West 9th Street, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

“The petitioner’s application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) was denied,” Heather Janik, Press Secretary at DOHS told the Brooklyn Eagle via email on November 29…That was news to the petitioner, the Coalition for Carroll Gardens, which was celebrating the approval of the restraining order. Steven Miller, chair of the Coalition for Carroll Gardens said the group was amazed at the Department of Homeless Service’s statement.”

The judge did, in fact, issue a temporary restraining order, according to the Eagle, which “prohibits the city and its contractors from ‘using the building in violation of applicable laws and requirements.'” The DHS spokeswoman said in an email that the judge’s order “merely says that the City can’t use the building in violation of any laws, which of course the City would not do.” In response, Miller said, “The City is being dishonest in its position claiming that no TRO was not granted.” A hearing on CCG’s application for a preliminary injunction will take place tomorrow. CCG contends that the proposal to house 170 homeless men at the site would violate the building’s certificate of occupancy, which allows only 30 residents. The ten-unit apartment building has never been occupied because of problems with the Department of Buildings.
Restraining Order Intrigue Clouds Fate of Homeless Shelter [Brooklyn Eagle]
Breaking: Court Blocks Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter [Brownstoner]
Controversial Carroll Gardens Homeless Shelter Opens [Brownstoner]
Pols, Angry Residents Confront Homeless Shelter Execs [Brownstoner]
Photo by Pardon Me For Asking