Two cops recognized for arrests of robbers

Officer Brendan Bellew (pictured at left) was presented with a Cop of the Month award by Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman and 13th Precinct Community Council President Frank Scala. Officer Nicholas Clemente (not pictured) was also given an award for his service. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A pair of cops were recognized for their work in catching multiple robbers over the last month at the 13th Precinct’s community council meeting on Tuesday evening.

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, the precinct’s commanding officer, praised Police Officer Brendan Bellew for spotting a man on April 11 in front of 8 Gramercy Park South and recognizing him from a wanted poster about a robbery inside a Duane Reade at 333 Seventh Avenue earlier this month.

“This guy has 35 arrests and has been on the job for six months,” Hellman said. “This was an incident of shoplifting gone wrong in a Duane Reade and there was an image captured with surveillance. Brendan recognized him from the photo and arrested him. He’s a great example for the kids.”

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East 17th Street shelter will open in April

Bowery Residents Committee CEO Muzzy Rosenblatt speaks at a meeting on Tuesday about a Safe Haven shelter that’s now being renovated. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

A new Safe Haven shelter the city is opening on East 17th Street in a former Beth Israel AIDS hospice is expected to be operational by early April, according to its operator, the Bowery Residents Committee.

Members of Community Board 6’s housing, homeless and human rights committee held a meeting about the shelter on Tuesday night, with BRC CEO Muzzy Rosenblatt providing updates. This was the first meeting on the subject since another one for neighborhood organizations was held last July.

At that time, Rosenblatt predicted that the shelter would be operational by Labor Day of last year after minor repairs but on Tuesday, he said renovations at the building, which is owned by Mount Sinai, were more extensive than anticipated.

“At that point, we hadn’t actually seen the elevator in the building but we were making projections based on previous city dealings with elevators,” he said. “Once we saw the elevator, we realized that it actually needed to be replaced, which takes longer because the elevator has to be site-specific, but that work is now underway and we don’t anticipate any further delays.”

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Soapbox: Support the homeless with Safe Haven

By Keith Powers

Two weeks ago, the city revealed its plan to open a “Safe Haven” transitional housing facility on East 17th Street. The plan is causing some consternation among those that live in the neighborhood, but the community should remain open-minded while the city presents its plan.

Many communities raise concerns about the siting of homelessness facilities. In Maspeth, Queens, the community fought against the siting of a shelter and defeated the proposal. None of these efforts solve the important and necessary issue of ending homelessness in the city. Here’s what does: a small facility for the chronic homeless operated by a high-quality provider that has social services included within the facility to permanently transition people out of homelessness.

There is often an immediate reaction of asking, “how can I stop this?” rather than “what are the facts and how can I help?”

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Possible upgrades for 30th St. shelter

Council Member Dan Garodnick speaks at a meeting aimed at coming up with ways to improve the men’s shelter. (Photo courtesy of Dan Garodnick)

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.

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Neighbors demand answers on planned E. 17th St. shelter

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Around a dozen leaders of neighborhood groups, who’d been stunned to learn late last month that the city planned to open a “Safe Haven” shelter in Stuyvesant Square, finally got to hear from the shelter’s operator, BRC, at a meeting last week.

Those attending the meeting, which was specifically held for representatives of local organizations, seemed wary but open-minded about the new 28-bed facility that is supposed to open in a former Beth Israel AIDS hospice building at 327 East 17th Street. The meeting was held at Mount Sinai Beth Israel last Wednesday evening.

Representatives from the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association and the Kips Bay Neighborhood Association were at the meeting and all wanted to know how the BRC, which runs the Safe Haven pilot program, would address safety concerns around the new shelter, especially because Safe Havens don’t have curfew requirements.

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‘Safe Haven’ for homeless to open on East 17th St.

327 East 17th Street (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The city is planning to open a new “Safe Haven” facility to house chronically homeless individuals in a Stuyvesant Square building that’s owned by Mount Sinai.

The building was previously used by Beth Israel as an HIV/AIDS hospice/residential treatment center. It is currently empty, located at 327 East 17th Street between First and Second Avenues. At one time, the site was a home rented by the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, though it was later demolished.

Word of the proposal, which is aimed at housing 28 homeless people and helping them transition to regular housing, got out on Tuesday with an email from Community Board 6 to various community organizations.

According to the email, CB6 has plenty of questions about the plan, including why it’s coming to the area when there’s already an 850-bed shelter on East 30th Street and other, local smaller shelters, and concern over the location’s proximity to neighborhood schools. The email also noted there was no guarantee the homeless individuals would be people from the district.

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Homeless man arrested for violent Kips Bay mugging

Darnell Williams

By Sabina Mollot

A homeless man from the 30th Street men’s shelter has been arrested for allegedly bashing a woman over the head with an unknown object multiple times in an attempt to get her bag.

Police say Darnell Williams, 29, was picked up at the shelter, known locally as Bellevue, on Thursday night, after being recognized by police from surveillance footage.

Cops said Williams has a lengthy criminal history and was released from prison two months ago after a five year stint for a robbery upstate.

He also has arrests for grand larceny in upstate areas as well as an arrest for criminal trespass in the city.

In the most recent incident, on February 26, the victim, a 37-year-old woman was walking along Second Avenue at 34th Street when a man approached her from behind and struck her on the head. He then pulled on her bag, knocking her down in the process. While the victim was still on the ground, her attacker continued to hit her in the head with the object before fleeing empty-handed. The woman was taken to NYU Hospital for treatment.

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Man charged with attempted murder for attack on Kips Bay tailor

jan26-robber

Police picked up the suspect at the 30th Street men’s shelter.

By Sabina Mollot

A 53-year-old man who’d been staying at the 30th Street men’s shelter was arrested late Wednesday night for allegedly stabbing and robbing an elderly tailor in Kips Bay.

John Franklyn, who has five prior arrests starting in 1982, a police spokesperson said, was picked up by Staten Island police, and charged with attempted murder.

The arrest comes after the Department of Homeless Services, which oversees the Kips Bay shelter, also known locally as “Bellevue,” told neighbors the shelter would become a place for employed or employable men. This change in policy was made in 2015 after a woman was raped by a shelter resident at a nearby bar.

Police believe Franklyn strolled into Apel tailor shop on East 27th Street on Monday afternoon and demanded cash from the 78-year-old owner. The two men fought and at one point, the victim managed to chase the suspect out of the business with a chair. However, the suspect stabbed the business owner multiple times, fracturing his skull, puncturing his lung and causing other stab wounds. The victim then gave the robber $80 in cash and he fled.

The victim was described as being in critical but stable condition at a nearby hospital. It wasn’t clear by Thursday morning if Franklyn had an attorney.

 

Six new officers headed to shelter

The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The 30th Street Shelter at Bellevue Hospital, which will soon be for employable men only, is getting six additional peace officers and NYPD officers, Town & Village has learned.

Additionally, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services, Nicole Cueto, security in the surrounding neighborhood is also being beefed up with regularly scheduled patrols.

Cueto, in an email, said the following security initiatives have already been implemented:

• NYPD now regularly patrols the block through the afternoon and evening three days a week.
• On Saturdays, 2-3 pairs of DHS Police patrol the area between 34th Street and East 2nd Street, from FDR Drive to Eighth Avenue, from 11 a.m. through the evening.
• The DHS Police on patrol pay special attention to the parks and unsheltered “clients” or homeless men in the streets.

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Kips Bay parents want homeless drop-in center to move

This photo, by Kips Bay resident Yael Feder, of a man lying in a building’s planter, was recently shared on the neighborhood Facebook page, “Third and 33rd (and Beyond).”

By Sabina Mollot

Following the news last month that the 30th Street men’s shelter would soon be limiting the residents it accepts to those deemed employable and seeking job training, neighborhood residents have been left wondering why a similar standard can’t be shared with the nearby drop-in center for the shelter.

Called Mainchance, the drop-in center is located at 32nd Street and run by a nonprofit entity called the Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services. It is however, funded by the Department of Homeless Services.

One mom of two young children, Lauren Pohl, has been vocal in calling for change in the area like many of her fed up neighbors in Kips Bay, who’ve recently gotten more organized in their complaining about the local homeless men’s antics. They include frequent public fighting, drug use, urination, aggressive panhandling and lewdness. Pohl and another resident, Mort Greenberg, are co-chairs of active Facebook page, “Third and 33rd (and Beyond!)” where neighbors have been posting almost daily photos of various offenses.

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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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Shelter to soon be for employable men

The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

The 30th Street shelter at Bellevue’s “Old Psych” building (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Neighbors of the 30th Street men’s shelter, who for years have complained about homeless men aggressively panhandling, using the corner pay phones as toilets and just generally being nuisances, may soon see some relief.

The Department of Homeless Services, which runs the shelter that’s located at Bellevue Hospital, is planning to turn it into a shelter for men who are employed or considered employable and seeking job training.

Ken Ryan, the property manager of 350 East 30th Street, a mixed rental and condo building across the street from the shelter, said he was told this at a recent private meeting he had with DHS Deputy Commissioner of Adult Services Jody Rudin.

“That’s promising,” Ryan told Town & Village. “I am all for a homeless men’s shelter where men have jobs, or are being trained for jobs and live in the shelter. I am not for bums who get a bed and food and do nothing but harass the people in the neighborhood.”

Town & Village reached out to the DHS and press secretary Nicole Cueto confirmed the plan, which the department hopes to implement by the end of the calendar year. The shift in services won’t change the amount of men the shelter currently serves — around 850 — and while the unemployable residents would be sent elsewhere, the intake center and assessment processes would remain in place.

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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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All sex offenders moved out of Bellevue shelter

Planned legislation would make this permanent by closing loophole allowing them to stay there

Councilmember Dan Garodnick spoke at Tuesday’s 13th Precinct Community Council meeting, which drew  a large crowd concerned mainly about the Bellevue shelter for men.

Councilmember Dan Garodnick spoke at Tuesday’s 13th Precinct Community Council meeting, which drew a large crowd concerned mainly about the Bellevue shelter for men. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Residents concerned about the recent rape of a woman in a bar on East 27th Street and subsequent arrest of a man who had been living in the nearby Bellevue Men’s Shelter for the crime learned that all sex offenders have since been moved out of the shelter.

Matt Borden from the Department of Homeless Services made the announcement at the most recent 13th Precinct Community Council meeting on Tuesday, which was held at the Epiphany Parish Hall instead of its usual spot in the precinct because so many from the community were expected at the event. Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez were also at the meeting to discuss legislation that would put tighter restrictions on who is allowed at the shelter.

While the regular monthly meeting would usually consist of a report from the precinct’s commanding officer about recent crimes overall, new Executive Officer Paul Zangrilli, filling in for the new Commanding Officer Brandon Timoney, instead focused on the reason that meeting attendance had quadrupled to about 100 area residents.

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Sanitation garage, homelessness addressed at Gramercy forum

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Council Member Rosie Mendez, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, DSNY community affairs liaison Julian Sepulveda, Lieutenant Vincent Collins, Police officer John Considine and Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez moderated a quality of life forum at School of the Future on East 22nd Street this past Tuesday evening and answered questions from the community with the help of representatives from various city agencies. The event was co-hosted by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates and Community Board 6 and there were representatives from the various city agencies in attendance to answer questions.

District Manager Dan Miner noted that turnout seemed low because of the ongoing thunderstorms and the middle of the forum was interrupted by a flash flood warning alarm blast from an attendee’s cell phone. The Parks Department, Department of Transportation and the Department of Health did not have representatives at the forum, making it a smaller affair than a similar quality of life forum that was held for the Kips Bay community in the spring.
Mendez noted that this forum was meant to build on the event at Kips Bay and the representatives present at the forum included Lieutenant Vincent Collins and Police officer John Considine of the 13th Precinct, LaToneya Burwell, director of Community Affairs at the Department of Homeless Services, Julian Sepulveda, the community affairs liaison at the Department of Sanitation and Kaitrin Roberts, Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney Crime Strategy Unit.

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Alan Krevis, president of the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

One of the topics discussed, albeit briefly, was the sanitation garage that is planned for the Brookdale campus. Councilwoman Mendez said that the garage was a plan that was submitted under the previous administration but the current administration has yet to announce a stance on it. Mendez and her fellow City Councilmember Dan Garodnick have been called to a meeting about the garage that will take place in the next week or so, she added, and more updated information should hopefully be forthcoming after that.

Other questions addressed at the forum had to do with cleanliness. Mendez noted that a number of the questions sent in had to do with dog waste. Sepulveda of the DSNY noted that issuing a summons to someone for not cleaning up after their dog is tricky because it is something that police have to witness occurring. He encouraged residents to submit complaints to 311 so the city is aware of problem areas and the DSNY has been working with Business Improvement Districts throughout the city on sanitation-related issues to make sure that areas are clean, but beyond that, it’s a difficult rule to enforce. Mendez added that a new initiative was proposed and passed in the last city budget this June which allots between $90-$100 thousand per council district for city clean-up.

Burwell, a representative for the Department of Homeless Services, addressed questions about what to do about homeless people on the street. She emphasized that it isn’t illegal to be homeless but residents can contact 311 and DHS will send their street outreach team to engage with the person.

Many of the representatives for city agencies at the previous Kips Bay forum emphasized that 311 was the perfect catch-all for complaints on just about anything and some of the attendees at this most recent forum expressed frustration about the bureaucracy that sometimes seems involved in getting problems solved after reporting them to 311.

Sepulveda acknowledged that calling 311 can seem frustrating but assured the residents that the complaints were being heard.
“Our office deals with 311 requests all day,” he said. “It’s not just a black hole. They are getting somewhere. We do have to abide by certain rules and regulations so sometimes the issue is just out of the agency’s hands.”

Lieutenant Collins of the 13th Precinct also made the distinction between when to call 911 versus 311.
“If you fear for your safety or their safety, that’s a 911 situation,” he said.
“If someone could get injured, that’s always a 911 call. Sometimes if it’s a grey area; they may redirect the call to 311, but if there’s a chance of injury, it’s always better to call 911.”

Community Board 6 will be hosting other forums in the future and Miner said that the next meeting on the radar will be a senior issues panel on September 15. More information about the panelists and topics to be discussed will be available closer to the event’s date.