Letter: Poplar Street is the wrong location for a men’s homeless shelter

The location of a planned men’s shelter on Poplar Street.
Photo Jason Cohen

To the Editor,

I am writing today in regards to my concerns for the proposed 200-bed, single room occupancy, homeless shelter for single men at the address of 2443 Poplar St. Currently, the lot is vacant after many years of being a junkyard for cars or the like. I am a neighboring homeowner of a private two-family house, surrounded by dozens of other private homes. We all would love to see something take the place of what was there previously, but it cannot be a shelter for the homeless.

The main concerns of the homeowners, residents and business owners are as follows:

-Placing a homeless shelter on a street where it will be literally bookended with private one- and two-family residences is absolutely unconscionable. These are families with young children and homes they have invested in and maintained. The homes have front and side yards. The houses are actively occupied and well cared for.

-The facility will be along the Amtrak lines and the future Metro-North lines. There is already a tremendous amount of trespassing on the train tracks, with no policing by Amtrak or the NYPD. The railroad lines are easily accessible, and unsafe, for those people gaining access as well as the people who have homes against these lines.

-Easter Seals Bronx Child Developmental Center’s entrance is around the corner at 2433 E. Tremont Ave., just 400 feet away. They provide services and education for children with learning and physical disabilities. The play-yard for these children is a mere 100-150 feet away.

-St. Raymond’s Elementary School is less than a 500-foot walk from 2443 Poplar St. The school services students from pre-K through eighth grade. Van Nest Academy PM/MS 498 and Icahn 2 Charter schools are also elementary schools less than a third of a mile away; a 5-7 minute walk.

-The area under the nearby Bronxdale Avenue Amtrak bridge — less than 500 feet away — is already dangerous, especially at night, because it is poorly maintained and barely illuminated. The presence of this shelter nearby will only further heighten safety concerns for anyone passing through this area. This is an important route for many local residents traveling on foot to bus routes on East Tremont Avenue.

-There is an existing family shelter at 1564 Saint Peters Ave., less than a half-mile from 2443 Poplar St. There is an additional plan to build a 200-bed shelter on Blondell Avenue, also less than a half-mile from 2443 Poplar St. The location of 2443 Poplar St., is in Community Board 11, but it closely neighbors the Community Boards of 12 and 10, which will both be affected by the development.

-While it is understood that the Stillwell Avenue site was not viable, Poplar Street is an equally non-viable option. Yes, the lot is empty, but that is its only qualification; it is a lazy and poor thought-out choice for a shelter for 200 single, transient men. The neighborhood has its present share of issues, blights and crime without the additional stress on the residents, business owners, the people who work in the area and the 49th NYPD Precinct.

The area in question is in need of developments that will improve what is presently surrounding these streets, not the construction and development of a Social Service residence. It also begs the question who this shelter is servicing? While homelessness is a known and important issue throughout the five boroughs, I am not personally aware of the need for 2-3 shelters within the proposed communities. If this is to suggest they take the burden from other neighborhoods or boroughs, I find it hard to believe hundreds of homeless will actually come to these sites, therefore rendering them under occupied, and therefore making the need to develop them non existent.

I am prepared to continue this dialogue with community board representatives and my elected officials. There appears to be no factual, concrete information presented publicly. We have heard the decision was made without a vote from the board or much discussion. I could see how this could take place due to the pandemic when everyone is completely overwhelmed and distracted. I feel this should be addressed immediately before any more steps are taken. I look forward to obtaining more information on the potential plans for 2443 Poplar Ave.

I invite the communities to join the discussion on Facebook by searching for “Proposed Homeless Shelter 2443 Poplar Street Community Discussion.”

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