There’s collective concern among residents and elected officials grappling with the opening of a homeless shelter at a recently shuttered motel near Ferry Point Park.
The city Department of Homeless Services confirmed that it began moving in families to the Capri Whitestone Motel this week. The closed “hot-sheet” motel allegedly used to charge hourly rates and was known for a rumored bed bug infestation, said neighbors.
The Capri, at the Hutchinson River Parkway service road near the approach to the Bronx Whitestone Bridge Toll Plaza, is to house about 95 homeless families, according to sources.
Even though the city faces a record high homeless census of 55,768, elected officials and community leaders say that the location is far from supermarkets and lacks public transportation. It is also near a new municipal golf course and shopping center, along with about 60 homes in Ferry Point.
“This area has recently seen long-awaited positive economic investments including the development of the Trump Golf Course, Target and other businesses, so it is disheartening that the city would make a decision to open a homeless shelter without giving any concern to the residents of the area or issuing an impact statement,” said Klein. “This trend has to stop. Projects like these significantly change the make-up of a neighborhood and local residents and business owners must have an opportunity to weigh-in.”
He added: “While I recognize that we all must do our fair share to ensure that every New Yorker is safe and cared for and we understand the need to shelter those without homes, the solution on the best locations to do so needs to include community input.”
Councilman Jimmy Vacca repeatedly said in an interview that the DHS plan did not make sense “on so many levels,” and thinks the city’s siting is flawed.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. sent a letter to Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrio-Paoli concerning the lack of community notification and input on the siting of a homeless shelter, specifically mentioning the property at 555 Hutchinson River Parkway, which was recently put up for sale.
Dotti Poggi, leader of advocacy group Ferry Point Community Activists, said that after meeting with her neighbors in the close knit community, that some feel bullied into accepting the shelter and the lack of notification of the community and input could lead residents to shun the shelter.
“We are concerned about our quality of life and safety,” she said. “The success of this shelter does not seem probable with limited transportation and access to services.”
But the DHS also has its own mandate.
“Sheltering New York’s families with children is a collective responsibility to be shouldered by all,” stated a DHS spokesman in an e-mail. “We hope that the community is compassionate and supportive as these families work toward rebuilding their lives as we continue to work with partners and elected officials to address concerns.”
When news of the motel’s availability became public, many people in the community expressed optimism that new condos or a high-end hotel might be in the works. Now Community Board 10 vice-chairman John Marano said, “They want us to be sympathetic to the homeless which we are, but we feel that communication in advance would be better,” he said. “Educate us on how the process goes and at least we can speak to our community and provide them with the proper information.”