Community Outraged as City Fails to Address Shelter Needs in Clinton Hill

By: Shenal Tissera

Residents of Clinton Hill crowded a town hall meeting at Brown Memorial Baptist Church on Monday night to voice their frustration with the city regarding the adjacent migrant shelters at 47 Hall St. and 29 Ryerson St.

A line of people wrapped around the church before the meeting began, and the community’s anger was palpable.

“Just the fact that I see this room packed and there’s a line outside the door, standing room only, means that this is a problem that is concerning to the community, “ said Scott Henderson, the New York Police Department’s Assistant Chief, Patrol Borough Brooklyn North.

The bulk of the meeting, which was organized by Renee Collymore, the Democratic liaison for the 57th Assembly District, was spent hearing from more than 25 aggrieved residents after statements from NYPD officials and representatives of assembly members in the district. Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Councilmember Crystal Hudson, who penned a letter to the mayor about the shelters just yesterday, did not attend the meeting.

“This problem isn’t about the asylum seekers, it’s about that shelter. It’s too big,” said Alia McKee, a Clinton Hill resident, who summed up many of the residents’ feelings. “No work permits, no place to congregate and not enough food, it’s going to be a disaster.”

The two shelters have combined to house more than 3,500 rotating asylum seekers with a mix of single adults and families. Everyone at the meeting welcomed the migrants, but had no kind words for how the city has handled the crisis thus far.

Neighbors claim the only parties that win in this situation are the owners of the two buildings, RXR Realty and Sela Group. They also said it would be less costly for taxpayers to provide migrants permanent housing than continue the current revolving door system of 30- and 60-day shelter renewals.

Everyone – from the migrants to neighbors, small businesses, police officers, sanitation workers, park attendants and teachers– end up suffering, many speakers said.

The residents all had an issue with the sheer size and capacity of the shelters, scarcity of work permits and lack of communication between residents and the city regarding the transformation of the two buildings into emergency shelters.

Some residents suggested implementing public works programs and figuring out skills people in the shelters possess for special job placements. Some thought providing ESL teachers and language resources were also a good idea.

The major delay from the federal government in issuing work permits has fostered an environment where groups congregate on the streets and inside Washington Hall Park, according to the residents.

Joe Ganzalez at the town hall meeting.

Joe Gonzalez speaking at the town hall meeting. Photo: Shenal Tissera.

“They’re going into garbage cans, ripping it open looking for soda cans. I’m looking up and down the block, they’re knocking on doors. The sidewalk is a public bathroom,” said Clinton Hill resident Joe Gonzalez.

Michael Goodchild, the commanding officer of the 88th Precinct, announced the seizure of 37 mopeds in the area as residents complained of noise and people riding on the sidewalks. This drew criticism from a neighbor who stated this was the only source of labor for many migrants who still didn’t receive any kind of work authorization.

Businesses and merchants also voiced their displeasure with the shelters.

“For our businesses for example, there’s a lot of aggressive panhandling if you’re walking down Myrtle Avenue on every single block,” said Amanda Zenteno, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership. “It’s hard to use the Myrtle Avenue plaza…There’s a lot of concern about general foot traffic, do people feel safe? Do they feel comfortable coming, shopping and dining here?”

Amanda Zenteno at the town hall meeting.

Amanda Zenteno, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership. Photo: Shenal Tissera.

Those who came to speak were united in their call for the mayor to end the current lease for the shelters and build additional, smaller emergency centers across the five boroughs.

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