By Sabina Mollot
The Department of Homeless Services is planning to make some upgrades to the dilapidated 30th Street men’s homeless shelter, possibly even turning an unused theater into a space for public use.
On Monday, July 17, representatives of the department met with a few representatives of Community Board 6 as well as a few elected officials to discuss ideas, including to create a co-working space where shelter residents can get job placement assistance and work on resumes. As for the theater, a possible plan would be to renovate it or even repurpose it and have it used by the shelter’s residents or the community. Outside the shelter, which is located inside the Bellevue Old Psych building on First Avenue, another idea was to create green spaces like a small park that could also be open to the public.
Following the brainstorming session, Council Member Dan Garodnick said ideas were based on what the shelter’s residents want as well as what the surrounding community wants.
“We want to make it more welcoming for residents and less of an eyesore for the community,” said Garodnick, who was there along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and State Senator Liz Krueger.
Garodnick added that city has already enlisted the Department of Design & Construction to come up with a plan for improvements that “would make it better for the people inside and better integrated with the surrounding area.”
While the building is in need of infrastructural improvements inside and out, Garodnick acknowledged the primary concerns of the surrounding community have more to do with safety and quality of life. However, the meeting was focused solely on building conditions as well as the immediate area and identifying ways to make improvements.
He noted there have been some recent developments aimed at heightening security at the 850-bed shelter, though including adding additional security staffers “and other tools to ensure a better relationship” with the Kips Bay neighborhood.
The city-run shelter was supposed to become a place solely for employed and employable men, after a highly publicized rape at a nearby bar committed by Rodney Stover, a man who’d been staying there in 2015. However, the department hasn’t responded to T&V’s questions on if that policy is still in place. Earlier this year, another shelter resident, John Franklyn, was arrested after stabbing an elderly tailor at his shop in Kips Bay.
“We obviously have a continuing quality of life challenge as it relates to the homeless in our community and we need to bring them services,” Garodnick said.
UPDATE: The Department of Homeless Services has issued the following statement on the meeting:
“The community workshop we held last month at the 30th Street Men’s Shelter exemplifies the goals and values of the Mayor’s plan to turn the tide on homelessness: reimagining — and literally transforming — transitional housing facilities across the five boroughs to better help our neighbors get back on their feet. Over 30 community members, elected officials, advocates and architects came together for a productive discussion about developing a new vision for the shelter’s programming, facilities and overall design. We encourage community members to volunteer, join Community Advisory Boards and participate in community workshops like these—and we look forward to continued engagement with this community and others citywide—so that through creative collaboration, we can ensure our facilities are most effectively integrated into communities and our clients are welcomed as neighbors.”
The DHS also said there is currently a policy in place to house “predominantly” employed and employable men.
“Additionally, in an effort to address concerns about loitering in the area, we modified the population served at this site to predominantly Employed/Employable homeless New Yorkers, expanded daytime employment, recreational, and engagement programming and services to help clients get stabilize their lives, and have added a Community Engagement Team to conduct day and night canvasses to engage individuals found outside of the location and prevent loitering in and around the shelter.”