A planned shelter on West 59th Street has sparked controversy after receiving intense pushback from a group of parents who say the shelter’s placement right next to a popular playground poses a risk to their children. They want to stop the shelter — but those who support it say the shelter is a small-scale solution to the city’s record-breaking homelessness.
Those against it say the homeless shelter system won’t help the women it’s built for, and in the process, it will destroy a playground and threaten their children. They’ve formed an online petition, posted flyers in the area and asked City Council members to take a stance against the shelter. They have also asked the New York City Department of Investigation to examine the shelter contract.
“There’s going to be a shelter here, in one of the most densely populated areas of schoolchildren and adjacent to a playground,” Brad Gerstman, a lawyer for local group Friends of Ederle Playground.
“If there’s ever one that should be scuttled, it should be this.”
The debate over the shelter, playing out as the city’s homeless shelter system is bursting at the seams, points to some of the street-level challenges that can make lasting solutions elusive.
New York City’s homeless population has skyrocketed in the past year, in part triggered by the surge of migrants from the southern border. More than 82,000 people slept in a city shelter Thursday night and there are more than 50,000 migrants in the shelter system, according to city numbers. Last month, the city hit a historic milestone: There were over 100,000 people in shelters across the city.
On Wednesday, Adams announced shelter stay limits for single male migrants, a response to what he’s called an “unsustainable” overpopulation in the shelter system.
Street homelessness has also shot up — by more than 17% in the past year, according to an annual survey conducted by the Department Social Services. Adams administration officials are asking a Manhattan Supreme Court judge to give the mayor the ability to suspend parts of the city’s right-to-shelter mandate, while critics say the move would worsen the problem.
An affordable housing shortage has worsened the homeless problem — the process of getting out of a shelter and into a home is slow-moving and near-impossible for many. Meanwhile, community pushback to building more shelters can stall or even cancel them.
This neighborhood conflict on Manhattans’ West side also comes as the city grapples with the question of how to connect those who may be a danger to themselves to get the help they need, in the wake of the subway murder of Jordan Neely.
The shelter, located at 537 West 59th Street, is next door to Ederle Playground. The facility will be home to 200 single women with mental health diagnoses, housed in dorm-style rooms and a medical clinic open to the public. It’s slated to open in 2025, according to the nonprofit provider Project Renewal.