Residents oppose Westchester Square homeless shelter at public hearing

The site of the future shelter in Westchester Square on Blondell Avenue.
Photo by Jason Cohen

Residents in and around Westchester Square expressed opposition to plans for a homeless shelter for single men in the community during a public hearing the city held last week.

The location of the shelter, at 1374 Blondell Ave., sits right on the border between Boards 10 and 11 — and members and residents of both districts turned out at the public hearing to voice disapproval of the plan.

Foremost Real Estate, operating under the 1400 Blondell LLC holding company name, is slated to construct a 3-story building for a transient shelter and a health care clinic at the Westchester Square location. The shelter is slated to open mid-late 2023.

Currently, there are no shelters in CB 11, according to the Department of Homeless Services. The agency says more than 300 households, comprised of hundreds of individuals, from this community district reside in the shelter system citywide.

District Managers of Community Boards 11 and 10 — Jeremy Warneke and Matt Cruz, respectively — both stress that the boards are against the planned shelter. Warneke noted that, from what he understood, the shelter is a done deal.

“These hearings to my knowledge are procedural,” Warneke said. “If one can’t prove a rule has been violated, then there is nothing anyone can really object to.”

According to Cruz, the city did not include residents in the decision to put a shelter there. Furthermore, he stressed that before the contract is approved the board would like to review it.

“We want more transparency from the city,” he stated. “We ask that this contract be placed on hold.”

Marianne La Croce, who lives on Blondell, is against the shelter because there are three schools, Herbert Lehman High School, P.S. 12 and an occupational training center for the disabled all within three blocks of the facility.

She feels this would endanger the kids.

“I know as a parent I would not want my children going to a school and coming home knowing there are hundreds of homeless men on the same street as my child,” she stressed.

La Croce said she called all three schools and none knew about the shelter.

“They know their children will be in great danger,” she stated. “We need to have a conscience here.”

Executive director of the Westchester Square Business Improvement District, Yasmin Cruz, explained that during the past nine years property owners invested millions to revitalize the area and this planned shelter could make all that for naught.

“Putting a facility of this size we will not be able to sustain what we have done,” she commented. “How much more is Westchester Square supposed to take before its back is broken.”

Sandi Lusk, director of Westchester Square-Zerega Improvement Organization, shares Cruz’s discontent with the planned shelter. Lusk noted that Blondell primarily has one to three story homes and this will be out of character with the neighborhood.

“Westchester Square was experiencing a renaissance,” she exclaimed. “We think this is absolutely the wrong place for this.”

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