Friday, July 28, 2017

Homeless Is Where the Heart Isn’t

This past week the old neighborhood learned that a recently constructed building on Broadway, whose eventual residents will be able to reach out and touch a passing subway train, is slated to become the residence of eighty-three homeless families. Market-rate apartments is what locals had been told the building would contain. But somewhere in the dark of night, the city fathers and mothers struck a deal with the structure’s developer. They obviously figured it would be best to report the bait-and-switch when it was a fait accompli and nothing could be done to stop it.

Yes, something has to be done about the homeless problem, which is worse than ever. The city mouthpieces proclaim, “Every neighborhood has to share in solving the problem.” Now, that’s fair enough in theory, but—let’s face it—homeless shelters aren’t popping up in every neighborhood in the city. The well-to-do addresses have nothing to fear but, maybe, fear itself.

Naturally, many area residents were up in arms at this sudden turn of events. On Facebook, men and women vented their spleens, including many who haven’t lived in the neighborhood for decades. A few people reported their personal experiences in working with homeless families in what is described as “transitional housing.” Two of them portrayed it as total chaos with a sorry cast of drug-addled adults, deadbeat dads, and neglected children. Another fellow painted a completely different picture. The majority of the homeless families he worked with were more like the Waltons in the throes of a temporary rough patch. While I am more inclined to believe the chaos model, perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. For all concerned, we can only hope for the best. Only time will tell, but if the city’s track record in these matters is any indicator, the “best” bar will have to be lowered.

Yesterday morning, I passed by the building and encountered a truck delivering spanking-new stainless steel refrigerators and stoves. They were all over the sidewalk as Exhibit A that this project was a done deal. A community board meeting held last night concerning it would amount to too little, too late. Any resident complaints, no doubt, fell on deaf ears. A day earlier, I found a flier in my door alerting me of the meeting. Unfortunately, it listed the wrong tomorrow. While the date, 27th, and year, 2017, were correct, the month, June, had come and gone, just as any hope at locals having a say had come and gone.

It’s pathetic that politicians and developers are so often in bed together and broker these backroom deals for their mutual benefit. It’s been reported that the landlord is poised to get $1,800 per apartment from the city’s coffers. In the big picture, it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to place eighty-three homeless families in one building in a densely populated area with over-crowded schools. But then when is sense ever factored into these equations?

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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