Homelessness – and why New Yorkers have the right to expect action

The topic of homelessness has garnered many headlines in recent weeks, including in this newspaper, which has been chronicling the concerns of neighbors of the 850-bed men’s shelter at Bellevue Hospital. Additionally, in a recent letter to the editor, a T&V reader remarked on her observation that homeless people have even been sleeping in and around Stuyvesant Town.

Therefore, we were relieved to hear Mayor Bill de Blasio and the first lady roll out a plan last Thursday to help the mentally ill in this city, including those who are homeless and have histories of violence or aggressive behavior, get easier access to services they need. Though it doesn’t focus on the homeless in particular, the plan is focused on getting different city agencies to start communicating in a meaningful way in order to determine the best course of action (treatment vs. jail, for instance) when dealing with particular individuals.

This initiative really can’t start soon enough.

In Kips Bay, where residents have for years complained of homeless men fighting, using pay phones as toilets, and masturbating in plain sight, tips get swapped by neighbors on Facebook on how to deal with the ongoing problem themselves. One resident recently advised others not to give money to the shelter residents, in the hope that they’ll panhandle elsewhere. It’s worth pointing out, though, that for those who do want to help the homeless, offering money isn’t the only way to do this.

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Kid on bike hits woman on PCV path

By Sabina Mollot

While normally the sight of speeding bikes in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper is blamed on deliverymen from nearby restaurants, recently it was an eight-year-old child whose speeding resulted in an accident that left one woman in a cast.

The woman, a resident of Stuyvesant Town, said it was on July 13 at around 6 p.m. when she was walking her dog along a path in Peter Cooper near 541 East 20th Street and was knocked down from behind when a child on a bike crashed directly into her. Instinctively, she put out her arms to protect her head and ended up landing on them, fracturing her left wrist. Then, adding insult to injury, she said, was that the boy’s father berated her for being there. The woman, who asked that her name not be published, added that soon after she was hit, Public Safety officers were at the scene and when she gave her name and address to them, the boy’s father, a resident of PCV, asked what she was doing there.

“He said, in front of me, ‘You don’t belong here; you live in Stuyvesant Town,’” she said. She added that he initially resisted giving his own information to the officer, but ultimately admitted that when the accident occurred he was distracted by something on his phone. Meanwhile, the boy, she noticed was frozen in shock.

Fortunately, another man who lives nearby and saw her was friendlier, helping her into a cab so she could get treatment at NYU Langone Medical Center.

The woman, a longtime resident, said she contacted T&V for a couple of reasons. First, she said, she wants parents to make sure their kids’ bikes have bells or horns, and she also wants to make sure parents whose kids are learning to ride bikes actually do supervise them.

“If I was an older person, or a more frail person, I could have died,” she said. “This is a busy community.”

New app allows users to track the homeless

App creator David Fox

App creator David Fox

By Sabina Mollot

In the streets surrounding the men’s shelter at Bellevue, neighbors in recent months have been snapping photos of homeless men when they spot anything that seems alarming, whether it’s public lewdness or aggressive behavior. The photos often get sent to local police and homeless officials and sometimes on the neighborhood Facebook page 33rd and Third (And Beyond).

Now, those residents should have any easier time chronicling their complaints, thanks to an app created by a Murray Hill data engineer and programmer. The free app allows users to post their photos onto a map, which then lets other users know, through pins, the locations where particular homeless people are camping out in real time. It also offers a variety of hashtags for users to choose from depending on the situation, such as #aggressivebegging or #needsmedicalattention. So far, midtown has been the most heavily tagged area.

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Thrift Shop Row is thriving

Customers continue to rely on rock-bottom prices

A selection of women’s clothes at the Salvation Army, one of the shops along East 23rd Street’s Thrift Shop Row (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

A selection of women’s clothes at the Salvation Army, one of the shops along East 23rd Street’s Thrift Shop Row (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

To some they’re places to dig for hidden treasures at a cheap price, while to others, unable to turn elsewhere for the things they need, they’re a lifeline. They’re also the foot soldiers of the nonprofit world, positioned at street level for anyone to breeze on in, and, depending on their needs that day, contribute by leaving the unwanted contents of their closets behind, or by spending a few bucks.

Local bargain hunters are especially fortunate, considering that a two-block stretch on East 23rd Street, between Second Avenue and Lexington, is home to half a dozen thrift shops. They are Cauz for Pawz, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Vintage Thrift, Housing Works and City Opera. At the beginning of the recession, in 2008, these shops were busier than ever, at the time reporting to Town & Village that they were doing well in sales as many more people came to rely on their rock bottom prices. However, they noted that donations had fallen, with many of those same people opting to hold onto the things they had.

Recently, T&V caught up with representatives from a few of the stores that make up Thrift Shop Row to ask how things were going these days, and everyone we spoke with said their organizations were faring well, thanks to a continued reliance on their low priced goods, but also generous people donating.

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