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Shelter Placements Continue to Rock Brooklyn

by Joe Gonzalez
One of the hottest issues in the whole of Brooklyn is where to put the waves of immigrants and the homeless.
With no prior notice to local residents, New York City cut a highly controversial no-bid emergency contract of $45 million dollars to open a homeless shelter in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill; the shelter is sited at 47 Hall Street. Shortly thereafter, yet another shelter opened, again with no advanced notice to residents. This one is located at 29 Ryerson Street, a mere one block away from the Hall Street shelter; both are sited directly across the street from the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard.

For months local residents were making many complaints about the sudden crush of people numbering about 4,000 living in the two shelters, hi-rise former factories.

The many complaints were heard by longtime resident and former District Leader Renee Collymore. Ms. Collymore scheduled a Community Town Hall meeting to receive the residents’ concerns. The meeting was set weeks ago for Monday May 6, 2024 at the historic Lafayette Masonic Lodge in Fort Greene.

Five hours before the 6 pm meeting was to begin, Ms. Collymore got a telephone call from a Lodge official, who without further explanation, canceled the meeting. According to Ms. Collymore, about 30 minutes later, she received a call from former city councilperson, resident, and now Attorney General Letitia James, who had heard that the meeting was canceled, despite the former support of the Temple.


Ms. Collymore said, “The Attorney General understood the importance of the voices of the community being heard,” and called Reverend Clinton Miller, Senior Pastor at the Historic Brown Memorial Church and secured the use of that Church’s Hall as an alternate meeting site.
(Publisher’s Note: See Ms. Collymore’s accounting of the ensuing drama of the last minute change in accompanying sidebar.)

The overflow crowd was stunning with over three hundred residents showing up. Indeed, over 150 more residents were turned away when the Hall reached capacity.

Ms. Collymore called in various NYPD Officials including Brooklyn North Patrol Chief Scott N. Henderson and 88th Precinct Commander Captain Michael Goodchild. Both spoke about the NYPD response to community complaints to low level crimes such as smoking marijuana, alcohol drinking, sleeping in the park overnight and homeless generally leaving trash around. There was not one City, State or Federal elected public official who bother to attend although some sent their staffers to read a written script of concern from a prepared statement.

Local residents lined up and over twenty-five railed about the various concerns of health and safety, including sometimes hundreds of homeless people milling about the City Park sited at Hall Street and Park Avenue.

The local Business Improvement District (BID) Office was represented by its Director, Amanda Zenteno, who ran off a laundry list of complaints from area stores and residents about the homeless situation. They included lack of English-speaking proficiency, lack of clothes and health supplies or even a locked storage lockers to secure their belongings.


This resulted in the homeless carrying around all of their property everywhere they went. Ms. Zenteno added that there remains the unresolved matter of the newly arrived getting Federal work permits. Because they are not U.S. citizens, they cannot get a social security number which in turn means they cannot open a bank account.

The problems abound and appear to not be going away any time soon—and indeed may even get worse due to reports that NYC will in the near term enlarge the current number of 4,000 homeless at those two shelters to 7,000.

It remains to be seen what will happen next but its certain Renee Collymore will be watching and organizing future meetings to hear residents concerns.