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.