April 12, 2011
It’s not a simple equation of “either or:” Is the proposed 200-bed assessment center for homeless men, which the Department of Homeless Services is intent upon installing at the site of 400 McGuinness Blvd., a blessing or a curse? From the picture painted by the representative of BRC, Muzzy Rosenblatt, it would be an unmitigated blessing for its clients. It is part of an overall strategy to help people in dire straits.
From what he presented at the community meeting at the New National Hall on Tuesday, April 5th, this will be one of various, highly efficient programs with which he is involved, geared to produce positive results for many needy individuals. He is credibly reputed to be one who runs a clean operation. There is no apparent reason to doubt his sincere commitment to serve a difficult segment of the population whose needs are complex. Homelessness for many is oftentimes a symptom of deeper underlying problems that require professional help. From Mr. Rosenblatt’s description, there would be some attempt to begin to address these underlying matters. Yet, we all know that the success rate of even the best attempts is not very high. Which leaves one to consider the other side of the equation.
From the perspective of many residents of Greenpoint the project lies at the opposite extreme of the spectrum. From their perspective it is an unmitigated malediction for the surrounding neighborhood. The assurances that the program will be well run did not mollify their apprehensions. Hence, the voices of the local people tended to sound a clarion call in opposition to the impending development of this center.
It appears that in spite of the best of efforts and good intentions, similar programs did not always deliver as fully as promised. Even if it were a perfect program run perfectly, the Greenpoint area would be weighted with a project which draws from various parts of the city, perforce leaving the community, unprepared as it is, to be host to any number of individuals who may fail to be responsive to the help offered by the center, individuals who would tend to get caught into an orbit as wandering satellites around the center, with nowhere else to go but to the local streets, seeking other alternatives. The security for what is now a low crime rate district could become jeopardized. Such are the projections that emerge in the minds of local residents. It does not appear that Mr. Rosenblatt can credibly explain away such apprehensions.
At the New National meeting there were many good-willed local people present, who see the good in the program, but who are torn by the consequences to the neighborhood. Their statements were more than just knee jerk NIMBY reactions. At least one person, very actively involved in efforts to assist the homeless, presented a very carefully considered critique based on personal experience with assessment shelters in other parts of the city. Her critique gave a much more sobering view of the proposed assessment shelter. Another individual who has been an actual participant on the receiving end of a similar enterprise was most vociferous and articulate in expressing his clearly heartfelt objections, as he conveyed his conviction that it would have a deleterious impact on a neighborhood which he has come to love. The fact that it has an industrial component does not diminish the fact that Greenpoint has been a good neighborhood which contributes much to the common good of New York City.
Indeed! While it certainly has its problems, Greenpoint has had one of the lowest crime rates in the city, and it seems that a good question to pursue further is, “How will this project affect the neighborhood’s security?”
In applying the unwritten guide which expects each community to carry its fair share of the burden of citywide services, it appears that the giant sewage treatment plant on Greenpoint Avenue and Provost Street was not given any weight in the balance.
It seems safe to conclude that this proposal, at best, is a mixed blessing, with the Greenpoint community coming out on the minus side of the scale – which brings up another question: When will there be a major project sponsored by the city that will come out on the plus side for Greenpoint? Does Greenpoint have its fair share of such projects?
Rev. Robert Czok, Pastor
St. Anthony/St. Alphonsus Church
Brooklyn, New York 11222