Neighbors of shelter say homeless men have gotten out of control

Homeless men congregate in front of a residential building across the street from the shelter, where neighbors say the men pandhandle, fight, urinate and occasionally worse.

Homeless men congregate in front of a residential building across the street from the shelter, where neighbors say the men panhandle, fight, urinate and occasionally worse.

By Sabina Mollot

For the Kips Bay residents whose homes are near the men’s homeless shelter on First Avenue and 30th Street, concerns over safety and quality of life didn’t begin in April after a rape at a local bar, which was allegedly committed by one of the shelter’s residents.

A few neighbors who were interviewed by Town & Village recently said they’ve had to alter their daily routines for years now in an attempt to avoid the homeless men, who’ve become a near-constant presence on the sidewalks, loitering, fighting, panhandling and using phone booths on the corners as a toilet as well as a spot to do drugs.

Residents have also reported being harassed and an increase in aggressive behavior. In May, a coalition of fed up neighbors who live the shelter started a petition aimed at reducing the number of beds at the shelter to about 250. Currently there are 850 and the shelter, at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” unit, is running at full capacity.

Other requested changes include forbidding any man who’s been charged with a sexual offense or other violent crimes to stay there, and closing the loophole in the law that allowed those men to stay there in the first place.

While all the sex offenders who’d been staying at the shelter were relocated after the rape at Turnmill bar on East 27th Street, this isn’t necessarily permanent. State law dictates that sex offenders can’t be within 1,000 feet of a school. However, this only applies to sex offenders who are out on parole or probation, so the Department of Homeless Services, which runs the shelter, has been in compliance.

The neighbors, meanwhile, said they also want to see the closure of the shelter’s Mainchance Intake Center located on East 32nd Street, blasting it in the petition as poorly run and having no regard for the community. It now has over 1,300 signatures. Though it’s not mentioned in the petition, area residents as well as the superintendent/resident manager of a building across First Avenue from the shelter, Antonio Rodriguez, have indicated they’d also be thrilled if the city got rid of the phone booths along the avenue.

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Larceny up this month, mainly bag, phone thefts

Captain Brendan TImoney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Captain Brendan Timoney (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Captain Brendan Timoney, who hosted his first community council meeting as the new commanding officer of the 13th Precinct on Tuesday, told residents that the neighborhood is still having some of the same old problems with grand larceny.

That crime is up by about 6.7 percent in the last month and Timoney noted that the precinct is specifically tracking a pattern in which a black man on a bicycle seems to be targeting women distracted by their smart phones. So far, 13 women have been victims of the thief, who rides on the sidewalk behind them and grabs their phone while they’re not paying attention. Four of them had their purses stolen but Timoney said that the rest had their phones snatched right out of their hands and he added that with some of the incidents, there is video surveillance available that shows the women’s inattention to who and what is around them.

“Know your surroundings,” advised Timoney, who was transferred to the 13th Precinct seven weeks ago. “Many of them had their heads buried in the phone and didn’t even see the guy coming.”

While the phone and purse snatchings contributed to the increases, Timoney said that theft of unattended items also continues to be a problem for the precinct, where bar and restaurant goers are leaving their bags and phones behind while they go to get a drink.

“Get the word out to your friends to keep your property in your sights at all times,” he advised.

In addition to grand larceny, Timoney said that crime is currently experiencing a spike in the 13th Precinct and was up slightly overall in the last month.

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New commanding officer adjusting to 13th Precinct

Captain Brendan Timoney

Captain Brendan Timoney

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The 13th Precinct has seen some leadership changes in the last month, with Captain Brendan Timoney coming in to take over for Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, who had been commanding officer at the precinct since the end of 2012 right before Superstorm Sandy.

Captain Steven Hellman, who has also been transferred out of the 13th precinct to Midtown North, previously told Town & Village that the precinct’s former commanding officer has been promoted to Patrol Borough Manhattan South, which oversees 10 commands in Manhattan, including the 13th Precinct.

The 13th precinct’s new commanding officer joined the NYPD in 1998, starting in patrol at the 52nd precinct in the Bronx. Since then, he has worked in other precincts in the Bronx as well as at the Midtown North precinct as a sergeant and on the conditions team, which deals with quality of life issues.

He was promoted to captain in 2011 and transferred to the Ninth Precinct, where he was executive officer until 2013. He was the commanding officer of the First Precinct, covering Tribeca, from 2013 until he was transferred to the 13th Precinct, where he started his new post as commanding officer on March 6.

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