At around 8:30PM on Friday, September 23rd, a man was found hanging in McGolrick Park, dead from an apparent suicide. The victim, most likely homeless and a public inebriate, was found half sitting on the bench from which he probably jumped, with a rope tied around his neck on one end and to a fence on the other. This marked at least the third death of a homeless person in a neighborhood park this year and the second suicide – another victim succumbed to the elements. The tragedy strengthened the calls of many Greenpointers to establish a shelter in the neighborhood to deal with its unique homeless population.
Greenpoint’s indigenous homeless population consists, for the most part, of Polish speaking, chronic alcoholics. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) does not offer a solution for people who need permanent housing, alcohol counseling and a Polish speaking staff. In fact, their alcoholism often disqualifies them from housing, raising fears that the neighborhood could see more fatalities as winter approaches. Just last week, Councilmember Steve Levin and Assemblyman Joe Lentol stood on the steps of City Hall protesting the city’s plan to build a 200-bed men’s assessment shelter at 400 McGuinness Boulevard, demanding instead a solution to the community’s homeless problem. “This tragedy is yet another heartbreaking example of why DHS needs to wake up and see the problems right here in our backyard before they barrel ahead with a plan that wouldn’t have prevented this nor helped this man or any of those before him,” said Lentol. “DHS needs to heed this call for help and start helping the people we see every day, in our parks, in our streets and address the unique needs of our community’s homeless population, be it through housing or services or whatever the experts deem necessary. Then they will have our complete and total support. Until then, how can we support a project that intensifies the problem while doing nothing to prevent our own residents from dying in the streets? I hope they wake up and help North Brooklyn’s unique needs before this becomes a trend.”
Advocates for Greenpoint’s homeless agree with Levin and Lentol, arguing that the proposed McGuinness shelter will bring in an overload of homeless from throughout the five boroughs, offering only temporary shelter. Meanwhile, there is no outreach planned for local homeless, such as those in McCarren and McGolrick Park as well as other public spaces.
“I am deeply saddened and distraught by the recent death in McGolrick Park,” said Levin. “Since last winter, our community has seen the tragic and unnecessary deaths of at least three men, all identified as chronic public inebriates. We, as a community and as a city, cannot turn a blind eye to this problem. We must come together to find real solutions and ensure that this does not continue to happen in our backyard.”