Community leaders are concerned about the existance of sex offenders in the homeless shelter for families at the former Capri Whitestone motel in Ferry Point.
Responding to the community uproar, Senator Jeff Klein held a press conference on Friday, January 23 calling attention to legislation he sponsored that would prohibit the most serious sex offenders from living in homeless shelters specifically for families with children.
He was joined in his call by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman James Vacca, along with Community Board 10 and neighborhood leaders.
But at least one local elected official believes that the Department of Homeless Services can fix the issue at the shuttered motel and elsewhere with a simple change in its own policy.
Senator Klein said at the press conference, flanked by community leaders, that if his legislation were enacted into law it would ban Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders - those convicted of the most serious crimes - from residing in a homeless shelters for families.
Allowing high-level sex offenders to stay in family shelters where vulnerable women and children are trying to get back on their feet is not only troublesome but dangerous,” said Klein. “With more than 60,000 homeless New Yorkers sleeping in New York City shelters and thousands more out on the street, we need to take every measure to protect those in our care.”
Klein said if passed, the regulations would apply to sex offenders when they have finished their probation or parole.”
Benedetto said that the Department of Homeless Services was very arrogant in placing the shelter next to Ferry Point Park while the elected officials and community worked to find an alternate site, and that it now seems like the agency was incompetent in selecting the management for the former motel.
The facility, run by Acacia and housing over 90 families, is called the Crystal Family Shelter. According to a Department of Criminal Justice Services website search supplied to the Bronx Times by local activists, two sex offenders, one who committed crimes against an underage person, reside there.
“The core responsibility of government is the safeguarding of its citizens,” said Benedetto, adding “this is intolerable.”
Benedetto said he believes that the DHS can fix the situation at Crystal by revising its own policy about housing high level sex offenders, moving them to shelters that do not house families.
The councilman said he did know of any DHS policy when it came to housing sex offenders, and said that it was unacceptable to deal with these kinds of issues ‘‘as it hits us.’’
“Our shelters are safe havens for families and children experiencing the most difficult of hardships,” said Vacca. “We cannot, in good conscience, accept the risk of allowing sex offenders to live in close quarters with these already vulnerable families.”
Martin Prince, CB 10 chairman; Dotti Poggi, Friends of Ferry Point Park president and a member of the citizens advice board for the Crystal Family Residence; and Jo Anne Sohmers, president of the Ferry Point Civic Association also voiced their concerns.
CB 10 has reached out to DHS, and has requested that the two sex offenders be removed, but still be given services, said Ken Kearns, district manager.
“This board has made efforts in trying to have them (the offenders) be moved too,” said Kearns, who added that he knows that services cannot be denied to these men.
“What our board suggested was that because there was a possibility of a problem, that they simply be relocated to another shelter,” he said.
Sex offender data on the state website is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be punitive,
DHS did not respond to requests for comment. According to Klein’s office, as of press time the legislation passed in the State Senate. It is not yet a law.