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St. Peter’s shelter protest goes on despite rain

Despite rain that seemed like it was coming down in buckets, a group gathered outside of Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign office for the third consecutive Saturday to protest the opening of a St. Peters Avenue homeless shelter.

The shelter opened towards the end of August at a newly constructed building at 1564 St. Peters Avenue, without community notification or a fair share analysis of social services near Westchester Square.

The Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization helped to organize the protest.It drew out Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman Jimmy Vacca on Saturday, October 3. The elected officials showed solidarity with the groups opposing the Department of Homeless Services-sponsored facility.

“I spoke with a Deputy Mayor Gibbs [in the Bloomberg administration], but they will not budge,” Klein said at the protest. “My plan was to have the 10 families already there stay there, and hold the hearing like they were supposed to do before it opened. ”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca said that the new facility, serving 38 homeless families transitioning to permanent housing, is in an area that is already oversaturated with all types of social services.

“It is a block away from a mental health clinic with 1,000 to 1,500 visits per week,” Vacca said at the protest. “Every attempt that we have made to deal with the opening of this facility has been met with a stonewall. The way the shelter was opened is lacking any type of consideration or consultation with the community.”

According to the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square, there are over 20 social service programs in a 40-square-blocks near the business district.

Despite the rain, the crowd marched for more than one hour, chanting “no hearing, no shelter,” “we won’t go away until election day,” and “enough is enough.” The group of about 20 protesters challenged the Bloomberg administration and DHS to stop over-saturating their neighborhood.

“Our taxes are going to pay $1.2 million per year to house homeless families in this building which should be available for working people,” said a Parker Street homeowner named Nancy.“Our property values are decreasing and this is just bringing down a residential neighborhood.”

Longtime resident Ellen Frisolone, who has lived in Zerega since 1963, concurred.

“It is annoying because we have enough social services in our neighborhood and they are opening this shelter on the sneak,” Frisolone said. “They should have done it the right way, and had a community meeting. We are not going to forget this come Election Day.”

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