When Community Board 1 meets at the Staaten in West Brighton on March 12, the main topic of a very heated agenda will be how the city’s proposed 200-family homeless shelter will negatively affect the area’s thriving small business culture. The shelter is currently scheduled for construction in the heart of the Bay Street Corridor rezoning plan.
“Businesses like DaddyO’s and Flagship Brewery just started to gentrify this neighborhood, creating an uptick in visitors and injecting new life into the North Shore of our borough so we can’t imagine how the city could believe this to be a logical site to house the homeless,” said Nicholas Siclari, chair of CB1 and a longtime cheerleader for the St. George community. “Crain’s New York recently dubbed St. George as the next Williamsburg and the city spent the past three years rezoning this area but unbeknownst to residents and business owners, there were these plans to house 200 families right in the heart of that rezoning? The mentality behind it just doesn’t make sense.”
That’s why CB1, which had an overwhelming turnout of residents and local business owners at its January meeting to discuss the rezoning and proposed shelter, is calling for a second meeting on March 12 in a larger venue to accommodate what Siclari calls a “huge turnout in support of what’s right.”
Christine Quinn, former speaker of the New York City Council and current head of the non-profit “Women In Need,” which is set to use the shelter, is scheduled to be in attendance.
The 200-bed site, located on Victory Boulevard in Tompkinsville, the former site of a Taco Bell, has been at the center of debate since it was announced as an option several months ago. A second, South Shore site located on the grounds of Mount Loretto is also being considered, offering 22 beds to women who are 50 and older. But the North Shore location is causing the most noise, even drawing a lawsuit from the members of CB1.
“We are currently in the process of interviewing lawyers,” Siclari said.
But since a city agency cannot legally sue the city, CB1 is reaching out to local Civic Groups and businesses, hoping to attach them to the case as plaintiffs. “If you created a graphic board identifying all of the homeless sites and services on Staten Island you’d see that there are about 50 on the North Shore, three of which are in a 1.5 mile radius of the site the city is currently proposing,” Siclari said.
“So while this is not a ‘not in my backyard’ argument, it’s quite clear that there are already enough of these services in our yard already.”
Congressman Max Rose is calling upon the city to be more transparent in their actions. “We want to take care of our homeless families, but Staten Islanders deserve to be treated as partners when the city is undertaking any project, and building a homeless shelter is no different,” he noted. “I am not going to sit back and do nothing while our questions go unanswered.” — SIBT