Over 120 former Bay Ridge residents are homeless and in city-run shelters at any given time. And how many shelter beds do we have in our neighborhood to help them? Zero. Instead, we send our former neighbors away to other communities to be sheltered and cared for. It is fairly clear that Bay Ridge is not doing its fair share.

In this episode, we’re going to explore previous attempts at sheltering our unhoused neighbors in Bay Ridge, going back into the 1980’s. Along the way, we’ll dissect and tear apart the tactics that NIMBYs use to push the responsibility we have to shelter the homeless onto other neighborhoods.

Most importantly, we’ll make the case for creating two new emergency shelters in Bay Ridge. This proposal is entirely our own and isn’t a part of any city agency or politician’s plan. We hope that, by starting this dialog at a community grassroots level, we can finally prove that the original concept of “Fair Share” in the 1990s was not inherently flawed. We hope that we can prove that neighborhoods can welcome shelters with open arms. If you agree that Bay Ridge can read the way, please sign our petition below, and listen on!

The Fort Hamilton Triangle, which is generally kept closed to discourage “loitering”. | Photo by Daniel Hetteix

Audio Bookmarks

Sign The Petition

Please show Bay Ridge (and our unsheltered neighbors) that you care by signing our Change.org petition. Let the city know that we are YIMBYs! Show your support for a community-driven siting process.

Our Local Homelessness Data

Check out the show transcript below (or listen to the show) for more info on how we gathered this data.

Show Transcript

Expand to view the entire show transcript (lightly edited for readability)…


Dan: Hey there and welcome to Radio Free Bay Ridge, your hyper-local progressive podcast located in beautiful Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. As always, I’m Dan.

Rachel: And I’m Rachel. And today we’re going to do one of our deep dives into a subject that is well, both a no-brainer yet absurdly controversial.

Dan: We’re talking about emergency shelters, which is to say, homeless shelters in Bay Ridge. And they’ve definitely caused no shortage of commotion in the neighborhood.

Rachel: Which is interesting because there are no homeless shelters in Bay Ridge.

Dan: So today we’re getting a little controversial.

Rachel: (Teasing) Controversial? Us?

Dan: I’m going to come right out and say it. Bay Ridge should not have one homeless shelter… we should have two.

Rachel: Before folks start screaming, let’s be absolutely clear. For over 40 years, since the Callahan Consent Decree court case in the 1980s, in New York State, every single person has had a right to shelter. And Bay Ridge hasn’t been carrying its fair share of the load, not for the city as a whole, and not even for our own neighbors right here who are unhoused.

Dan: Whether you spend a single night in Bay Ridge, or a year, or five decades, you are a resident. If you and your earthly belongings are here, you’re a resident. You deserve all the wonderful things that this neighborhood has to offer and more.

Rachel: NIMBYs if you’re listening…

Dan: And John, Gerry, Colleen, we know you’re listening.

Rachel: Tidy up your attitudes because you’re about to get roasted. But before we start a few disclaimers.


Dan: First, the advocacy space for homelessness in New York alone, is, to put it mildly, huge.

It’s a diverse network of charities, nonprofits, researchers, social workers, lawyers, bureaucrats, managers, organizers, financiers, builders, volunteers… all knit together by over 40 years of varying administrative policies from an alphabet soup of Federal, State, and City departments… all of which overlap across different time periods.

Our all-volunteer podcast team does not boast a housing expert. So we deeply, and sincerely apologize if we get anything wrong in this episode, or use a word incorrectly, or otherwise mischaracterize.

Rachel: And to those who advocate in this space, if you do notice we missed something, please DM, email, or otherwise get in contact and we can update our show notes at RadioFreeBayRidge.org where the updated transcript of this episode will live.

Dan: With that said, let’s turn our attention to our local history of shelter placement.


The Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, currently lists zero beds for Community Board 10, which includes Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. But it hasn’t always been that way. For example, the Bay Ridge United Methodist church had a few “church beds” when they were at their old Green Church location.

Rachel: By the way listeners, if you haven’t heard Reverend Bob’s episode about the United Methodist Church, you should definitely check that out. It’s an amazing example of folks choosing to do right by their neighbors.

Dan: Bay Ridge has traditionally had a high concentration of churches. So it’s no surprise that they’ve tackled the issue of homelessness in the past.

Rachel: Mostly that involves health programs, food distributions, clothing, donations. All of that is incredibly important and pretty non-controversial. But when it comes to the basic human right to shelter… then things get tricky.

St. Ephrem’s Controversy

Dan: Let’s journey back to 1985. St. Ephrem’s church, right near McKinley Park, had some extra space in their adjoining school. So they floated the idea to their parishioners of using the space to house homeless folks, specifically homeless men, who are usually the most vilified when it comes to local opposition to shelter.

Rachel: And the reaction to the St. Ephrem’s proposal followed that pattern. People came out of the woodwork to denounce the priest who suggested it, Monsignor Martin Bannan. According to Newsday opponents of the plan started spreading leaflets and putting up posters. Protesters stormed a September parish meeting. The news actually used the word “stormed”.

People freaked out thinking that the homeless men would use the bathrooms that kids also used.

Side note, where else have we heard “they might use the bathroom?”

Dan: Well, one person shouted that the homeless men would give the kids AIDS. This is 1985. The AIDS crisis was in full swing and the backlash was intense.

The “Why Don’t You Put It Next To Your House” Argument

Rachel: Trying to calm things down, the pastor offered to house the men in the rectory basement where he and the other priests lived. And the protestors still said “no.”

Dan: You know, there’s a common thing that jerks say when you want to build an emergency shelter facility: “If you care so much, why don’t you let them live with you? Why don’t you volunteer to put it next to your house?” That kind of thing. The priest offered exactly that. And it still wasn’t enough.

Rachel: Because those kinds of arguments are always made in bad faith. And all that controversy was made over a total of five to seven beds, which makes it even more appalling.

Dan: What!?

Rachel: It was over five to seven beds. In the end, 2,000 people signed a petition saying five to seven homeless men sleeping in a church rectory basement, was too dangerous to allow.

Dan: One of the leaders of the protest said, no joke, that it would be the greatest catastrophe the neighborhood had seen since the Verrazzano Bridge made hundreds upon hundreds… and he said this without a bit of irony… homeless.

The Limits of Non-Shelter Beds

Rachel: Happily, Monsignor Bannon decided to do it anyway. “It” being, get this, housing six homeless men for six weeks. Getting them through the winter. It was generous. He clearly stood his ground to try and do the right thing. But even after succeeding, they were only providing temporary help, not fulfilling a right to shelter. And to be fair, that’s not their job.

Since this right was confirmed, it’s the government’s responsibility to see that every New Yorker has a roof over their head.

Dan: And that’s why as great as church beds are when they become available, they can’t be the solution. But the opponents still had some bad faith arguments left with espouse. Tom McDonald, the guy who led the opposition, argued that the shelter would be open to homeless people from all over the city.

His key demand was that the church should only serve locals from the community. We’ll get into why that’s hilarious later on, but remember it, cause it’s going to be very important. Stick a pin in it.

The “Attraction” Argument

Another pernicious argument that opponents used was the “attraction” argument, which says that helping the homeless will attract them.

Rachel: Which has really messed up connotations as a concern… and is inherently dehumanizing.

Dan: Which is ironic since the opponents of shelters can often be the ones who behave in the most inhuman ways toward homeless people.

McDonald’s said at the time, “The monsignor says that it will be only six men. But what happens when the word is out and a man shows up on the steps during a cold winter night? Suddenly it’s seven. Then eight. And where does it stop?” I’ll tell you where it stops, Tom. When everyone is equally cared for and treated with compassion.

Rachel: I mean, practically speaking, it stops when the rectory’s full, but yeah. That argument set a precedent too. It argued that our neighborhood should be actively hostile, not just to homeless people, but anyone the local NIMBYs don’t like. And that has adverse effects on those of us who live here too.

NIMBYs vs. Benches

For example, in the 2010s, our local community board voted against city benches on the avenues repeatedly because they’d quote-unquote “attract” homeless people. These are benches that already have bars and armrests designed to make them uncomfortable to sleep on.

Dan: That’s called “hostile architecture” and it’s all over the place in our cities.

Rachel: For example, you know how they put the spikes on window sills to keep people from “loitering”? Let’s face it, that’s a dog whistle about keeping people with nowhere else to go from enjoying a few minutes of comfort.

And it hurts the rest of us too. I don’t know about you, I like sitting on window sills.

Dan: I think everyone universally hates those leaning benches on Bay Ridge Avenue?

Rachel: Yes, they do.

Dan: Same deal. It’s a whole other can of worms. No one in this neighborhood should be denied a single thing out of fear or concern that a fellow neighbor might use it, housed or not. People refusing to tolerate the mere presence of homeless folks on any level is one of the reasons we can’t have nice things in this neighborhood, whether it’s a DHS shelter or a bench.

The Briarwood Hotel

Rachel: And it’s sad. These people who are so triggered by the sight of someone’s sleeping or living on the street, you’d think they’d be the ones most in favor of a shelter.

Dan: You know, when push comes to shove, even the most reactionary people do have a hard time getting around that argument: that shelters reduce street homeless.

But there’s another pivot that NIMBYs have access to, which is similar to that “Bay Ridge First” argument. It played out in 1998, when a shelter was proposed for Bay Ridge Avenue. It involved a spot known as The Briarwood or occasionally the Owls Head Hotel.

Yeah. Bay Ridge used to have quite a few hotels. We’ll get into that later.

The Briarwood, aka 307 Bay Ridge Avenue, is on the corner of Third. It’s the building that until recently housed the Cocoa Grinder and it was built as an SRO. It had 29 single occupancy rooms.

Lots of different organizations partner with the city to provide shelters and this particular shelter was going to be managed by Services for the Underserved. They were planning on running the Briarwood as a Safe Haven facility.

The Safe Haven experiment

Rachel: Safe Havens are a somewhat new model and they were almost experimental back then. They’re designed to be short-term facilities with fewer requirements, if any, for entry and a streamlined application process.

They’re ideally suited to get folks off the street who have otherwise refused a bed at other facilities… so-called service-resistant people. Safe Havens have since become key parts of the shelter system.

Dan: Safe Havens don’t have curfews so people can come and go freely. And they don’t have sobriety the requirements though, as a rule, you can’t bring drugs and booze and whatnot onto a site itself.

The openness is what makes it so vital. It provides the first step for people to eventually accept other services: to get clean and enter permanent housing, et cetera, et cetera, because it makes no judgments.

Rachel: But Bay Ridge NIMBYs did make judgments.

Task Force for the Future of the Briarwood

Dan: The Briarwood was set to open in 1998. Six people had already moved into the site, which was going to include a communal kitchen, bathrooms, twenty-five rooms, and a rec and counseling space. But very quickly a local organization formed in opposition to the site calling themselves quote “Task Force for the Future of the Briarwood” unquote, led by Arlene Rutuelo, who go on to become one of Senator Golden’s staffers.

Rachel: “Go back to East New York” Golden?

Dan: Patience, Rachel, patience. We’ll get to that.

The task force vehemently opposed the facility.

Changing the Demographics

Rachel: And they gave another bad faith NIMBY tactic. Instead of outright opposition, Taskforce for the Future of the Briarwood decided to undercut the entire point of a Safe Haven.

Dan: They demanded that the facility only be open to women, which plays into the vilification of single men in the system, who, yes, are often more likely to have mental and substance abuse issues and thus have a greater need for a safe haven.

Rachel: You know what else they have? A right to shelter. “We only want to provide shelters for those we deem worthy” is not actually what that means.

The “Too Few Services” Argument

Dan: These NIMBYs also claimed that the services being provided at the Briarwood wouldn’t be enough. You can absolutely criticize that we don’t provide enough services to help homeless individuals. But again, the point of a Safe Haven is to be streamlined and bring people into the system who may otherwise be resistant.

So in the end, this argument too is in bad faith. They set themselves up as the ones who wanted what’s best and thus painted the service provider as the bad guy for wanting to give “less”. This tactic lets it seem like they’re the ones that care more while letting them set the bar higher and higher until nothing was done at all.

Rachel: What’s that phrase centrists sling at the left so often? “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

When All Else Fails, Sue

Dan: And when that fails, sue. Which is what happened. The NIMBYs entered into a lawsuit and delayed the project by two years.

By the time the Briarwood began accepting tenants in 2001, it was a women’s only shelter saddled with a “community advisory board”, which could set rules, policies, and regulations for the tenants. Was the advisory board was made up of social workers and health experts? No. It was made up of members of local police precincts, community board members, block association reps, commercial property owners, et cetera. Not the kind of people you want managing the rules and bylaws of an emergency shelter.

Briarwood operated for at least a decade. In 2015, it was closed due to ADA issues and not being able to get an elevator installed in the space. And the 27 SRO units were demolished and converted into seven residential units. In that period, the income of an average Bay Ridgeite declined by $700, and rent increased by 25%.

Today, our subsidized housing stock is down to about 3,129 units. And we’re set to lose 28% of those units in the next decade and a half, according to the NYU Furman Center.

The “Homeless Hotel”

Rachel: And now we come to one of my favorite neighborhood NIMBY stories, by which I mean it’s ridiculous, outrageous, and offensive. Think back. It’s 2017.

We’re in the heat of the city council election with then Gentile staffer Justin Brannan going head to head with Marty Golden’s PR guy, John Quaglione. There’s also Bob Capano, but we’re not going going to talk about Bob Capano.

Dan: We’re never going to talk about Bob Capano.

Here’s Quaglione at the city council debate, discussing how he thinks homeless people are best served.

John Quaglione: (In a clip from 2017) There is no… I stop and I give them money. I spoke about it earlier. When I walked up 86th street, when my daughter and she asked me, “what does it mean to be homeless?” I explained it to her and I explained what you do when you see a homeless person. You buy them something to eat.

Rachel: You may remember John’s plan for public safety, AKA a spy camera vigilante network. Clearly he had bad policy ideas on several fronts.

Dan: Our first episode. But we digress.

Turning a Hotel into a “Homeless Hotel”

Before that election there was a huge series of protests that echoed the Briarwood debacle, but with even less of a grip on reality. I’m talking about the “homeless hotel”.

Rachel: There’s no such thing as a homeless hotel. There are hotels paid for by the city to house people who need shelter, but a “homeless hotel” is not a thing.

Dan: And in this case, there wasn’t even an indication that renting to the city for additional shelter beds was in the plan. A developer just wanted to take the lot next to Windows We Are, down on Fifth in the 90s, and build a hotel. Just a hotel.

The homeless thing was entirely an assumption by Marty Golden.

Rachel: I mean, that’s a natural place to go when one of your staffers is none other than Arlene Ruteleo, former anti-Briarwood taskforce member and vehement anti-shelter NIMBY.

Hotel Stats

Dan: A grand total of 85 hotels city-wide are used to house homeless people out of a total of somewhere around 703 hotels citywide. Like a one in 10 chance, at least before 2020 and COVID hit.

Rachel: And when you say they’re used, you don’t mean the entire hotel in every single case?

Dan: Can be, but a lot of them are mixed.

Rachel: And they wouldn’t be used at all if we were creating enough shelter beds. And those wouldn’t be under nearly so much demand if the city could fix our housing crisis.

Dan: Here’s that moving goalposts thing that comes up again. NIMBYs fought against the solution, laying down their reasons, which are usually bullshit. Folks of good faith tried to accommodate those often unreasonable demands. Once that happens, the NIMBYs come up with more bullshit reasons, including stopgaps that are designed to mitigate the issues the NIMBYs caused to begin with.

Rachel: And can we just say here, in my opinion, Bay Ridge could actually use some more hotels. Like, not a crazy number of hotels. But I’d like my parents to be able to stay within a 20-minute walk when they visit without their only choice being Best Western that’s almost double the cost of a three-and-a-half star room in Sunset Park.

“Go Back To East New York”

Dan: And again, there was no indication that this hotel was going to be used to house homeless New Yorkers. Very tellingly, Golden used a very loud dog whistle when he told the developer to quote, “Go back to East New York.”

Marty Golden: (In a clip from 2018) We need to put these signatures together and we need to be able to tell this builder of this hotel where they should go.

Person In Crowd: (Shouting) Anywhere else!

Marty Golden: Stay there. That’s what we want to tell him to do. Go back to East New York and stay there!

Rachel: “Go back to East New York.” Sound familiar to anyone?

Donald Trump: Wow. That’s a lot of press.

Reporter: Who were you talking about in your tweet about going back to where you came from?

Donald Trump: Well, I don’t mention, I didn’t mention names. And, uh, I didn’t do that. But I will tell you, uh, if you’re not happy here then you can leave. As far as I’m concerned, you hate our country. If you’re not happy here you can leave. And that’s what I say all the time. That’s what I said in a Tweet which I guess some people think is controversial. A lot of people love it by the way.

Dan: The developer did have another hotel in East New York. But what Marty was really doing here was othering the people of East New York. “Those people”. Even local papers called out the barely veiled racism in his actions.

What’s more, he was dehumanizing unhoused people as a whole. Marty seemed to say: homelessness doesn’t happen here. He did the same thing with the opioid crisis. It was a dog whistle of exceptionalism, xenophobia, and quite frankly, raw racism.

Pitting Schools Against Shelters

And let’s be clear, Justin Brannan was also at that press conference slash protest. And he has since said he was extremely uncomfortable with what went down. He also clarified after the fact that he wanted affordable housing on the site instead. For Golden’s part, they said they wanted classroom expansions for the school across the street.

Rachel: Wait a second, didn’t a new school announcement nearby get similar in NIMBYs objecting en-masse?

Dan: For being too dangerous somehow, yeah.

Either way, nothing excuses stigmatizing homeless people to score political points.

Eventually, the developer scrapped the hotel and recently got approval for a zoning change that would allow for affordable housing. And as a concession, he got even more square footage on which to build.

Rachel: So in a way, Justin pulled off a victory in that he did something to address the housing crisis. And as experts in multiple sources in researching this episode have made clear, what we have right now is not a homeless crisis. It’s a housing crisis.

Dan: And again, we’ll get into the housing crisis in multiple future episodes. It’s so hard to do this topic and not constantly want to lead right into affordable housing. But we gotta keep our eyes on the first rung of this ladder: harm prevention and helping the people who need help now.

Bay Ridge’s Homelessness Stats

Fair Share and Zero Beds

So let’s do what we do best here at Radio Free Bay Ridge: dive into the hyper-local numbers when it comes to shelters, unhoused individuals, and Bay Ridge. The first stat is the number of Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, beds in our neighborhood.

Rachel: Wait. That was one of the first stats I saw when we started talking about making this episode… and it’s zero.

There was a report that came out and it lined up the number of homeless people in each zip code. Then the number of beds in each zip code. And we definitely did not have a zero in the first column, and we definitely did have zero in the second. Despite being a fairly well-off neighborhood with tons of great parks and schools, we are doing less than our part when it comes to housing our neighbors.

The City Council vs. The Mayor

Dan: Exactly. You mentioned that we’re well-off as neighborhoods go. And in the nineties, the City Council noticed the discrepancy between homeless shelter beds in richer and poorer neighborhoods. That led them to formulate a strategy known as Fair Share, which said that civic facilities should be spread out so that rich neighborhoods take on their fair… in other words, equal… share as the poorer ones.

Rachel: Then there’s the mayor’s office and their preferred strategy, which is to place shelters in the areas where the most homeless people can be found. In short, that means building only in specific spots, even if those neighborhoods are already doing more than their fair share, because it supposedly makes the facilities more accessible and convenient to those who need them.

Dan: That’s called the “Borough Based” approach and each has some downsides.

Rachel: Fair share is very moral. It’s about spreading the burden around. Coming together as one city. But it relies on being able to push shelters through in wealthy often white neighborhoods that have a lot of resources to delay and undermine the shelters being built in the first place… which can lead to either nothing happening at all, or the city trying to sneak the construction past the community with short notification windows and low outreach, which just leads to confrontation and damaged relationships between the city and the host community.

Dan: And the borough-based approach, to put shelters in the communities where the majority of people who are unhoused are coming from, reinforces defacto segregation and overburdens the neighborhoods that host them.

But here’s the catch. No matter which one you believe, Bay Ridge is due for a shelter.

Bay Ridge’s Homeless Population

Rachel: Dan, I believe you ran some numbers on this.

Dan: I did! So let’s get to the facts. Bay Ridge has consistently, since 2017, had 100 to 120 folks within the shelter system at any given time officially.

Rachel: And how did you get to those numbers?

Dan: It’s public city data. It’s part of the applications process for getting shelter. One of the questions asked is where is your last stable address? And our zip code accounts for about 100 to 120 of those responses system-wide.

Rachel: So to be clear, 100 to 120 of the responses were from people whose last stable shelter situation was in Bay Ridge, i.e. our neighbors.

Dan: Yes.

Estimating The Actual Number

Rachel: And obviously not everyone responds.

Dan: No, they don’t. There’s a huge quantity of unknowns. Hard data is hard to come by for folks experiencing housing instability. But I made a very rough calculation where I took the percentage of the Brooklyn shelter population who were former Bay Ridge residents, a certain number, and then I applied that percentage to the unknowns, people who didn’t respond.

Assuming the unknowns are similar in makeup to the ones who responded, with their last addresses, the actual number of Bay Ridge residents who are in the shelter system is about 140 folks on average, constituting 85 or so separate cases.

Rachel: Which leads us to unpin that point from earlier, which Tom McDonald made about St. Ephrem’s. That NIMBY argument about only caring for our own and screw the rest. Our point is, with zero beds, we don’t even do that.

Dan: And our previous controversies were over 20 or so beds at the Briarwood or six at St. Ephrem’s. We’re talking about hundreds of beds as our actual bare minimum to fulfill both the City Council fair share metric, as well as the mayoral  “put shelters where people who are homeless actually are” metric.

Monsignor Bannan of St. Ephrem’s  said in the eighties, referring to our upper-middle-class well-off community: “We ought to share what we have.”

Rachel: Socialism!

Red Tape and Data Collection

Can we pause for a second and talk about how some of that address data is collected?

Dan: Yeah. We do need to point out that supplying former addresses, and many other forms of data that the city collects, is part of an honestly onerous application process for getting shelter.

Rachel: Well, we often think of people who are living on the street as the only folks who are homeless. There are also huge numbers of folks who are couch surfing or were doubled up in apartments with friends and family, but for some reason or another, that situation has become untenable. Often they need to provide absolutely over-the-top documentation to prove their situation… sometimes documentation from people who just kicked them out or who, by providing that documentation, would essentially be admitting to violating a lease agreement or being part of an illegal housing scheme.

Dan: As an example, here’s some testimony from 2010 made to the New York City Council.

“Last week the Homeless Rights Project advised a four-person family who became homeless after the primary tenant with whom they had been living died. So they had to leave their apartment. DHS denied the family, which includes an autistic child, as well as a preschooler who is receiving home services for learning delays until he became homeless, on the grounds that the family could double up with a relative at a NYCHA apartment. When the primary tenant contacted her management office, she was informed by the assistant manager of the project that under no circumstances would NYCHA allow four more people in her apartment, because that would cause overcrowding, and she would be in breach of her lease and could lose her apartment if she let them return…”

Rachel: So she would also become homeless.

Dan: Yeah.

Rachel: Okay.

Dan: “…The NYCHA manager, however, refused to put this in writing.”

So they were denied shelter because they didn’t have the paperwork to prove they had no other option.

Rachel: Yeah. And even if you’re literally on the street, you still need family addresses, social security cards, previous addresses, or in a catch-22 that would make Joseph Heller himself jealous, proof of a basic income. And you’re expected to find that in the midst of, in case anyone has forgotten, being homeless. I mean, come on, I almost didn’t believe that last one when you told me.

Dan: And if you’re going to leave an intake facility for even a day, or break curfew, one wrong step while they’re evaluating your eligibility… you’re back to square one. And if you have a physical or mental disability…

We just felt that we really needed to acknowledge that while we’re using this data, the way that it’s gathered can be a problem in and of itself. It’s not a thing we can advocate effectively against on a local level, but we absolutely had to mention it.

Family to Single Adult Ratio

Rachel: Speaking of things, we have to mention. Earlier, we talked about how the Briarwood was taken from being conceived as an adults shelter to one that only allowed women. And we know for a fact that domestic violence and other reasons leave women and children vulnerable.

So what we’re seeing is two groups of people being pitted against each other when the enemy is the person preventing them from getting housing in the first place.

Dan: Yeah.

Rachel: Do we have stats on which kinds of beds are most needed if we’re going to do even the bare minimum when it comes to housing folks in our neighborhood?

Dan: It’s hard to break that down, but we do have data for the total number of cases versus the total number of individuals in the system. Assuming a family size of 3.5 on average, that puts us with about 50 single adults and 52 other folks, compromising 15 to 20 families on average, from Bay Ridge, who are in the city shelter system at any one time. Again, it’s very rough and it’s a lowballed estimate based on our most current shelter census in March, which is a bit lower than average, because guess what, the city made the applications process more difficult a few years back, so the shelter population is lower than it probably should be… We’d need to have actual city agencies and advocacy organizations tell us what’s best in terms of proportions needed for family beds versus single beds.

Check out the interactive data sheet on Tableau

Rachel: Which would kind of require us to be willing to have a shelter here in the first place.

Dan: Yes.

Rachel: Do we have any neighborhood-level metrics on this?

Domestic Assault and Families

Dan: Yes, we do have neighborhood-level data for why people enter the shelter system, especially for families, who again have the most restrictive applications process and also the newest intake system. So we get the most data for them.

Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights consistently rank at the top of the list city-wide for families made homeless due to domestic violence.

Rachel: And can I just pop in and just say the reason we’re talking about Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights like this is that the stats are tracked according to the Community Board, correct?

Dan: Yes.

Rachel: Which covers both.

Dan: So we can’t separate Bay Ridge out from Dyker.

Rachel: Okay.

Dan: And according to an Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness study in 2015, 38% of families from Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights entered the system due to domestic violence. 38%.

Rachel: Holy shit.

School-Age Children

Dan: That’s followed by evictions, I think. And on top of that, referring back to our education correspondent Erik’s episode about using data to demand better schools? We can use school data as well.

While our zip code doesn’t have an alarmingly high level of students experiencing housing instability overall, there is a major hotspot: PS 170. If you look at that data, 11.4% of the students have been in unstable housing situations in the last four years. That’s 116 students. And when it comes to siting family shelters, you absolutely want to cite them close to where kids go to school! Forcing them to commute halfway across the city from their temporary housing to school, just so they can be with their friends, is cruel. And it’s a great example of why we need a family shelter locally. So clear, like my suburban high school had about 800 kids. You know, you’re saying 11%, so 116… so roughly a thousand kids in that school?

Rachel: Yeah, roughly.

Dan: Imagine if one out of every 10 people you knew in high school was experiencing housing, instability.

Rachel: Yeah. And the thing is… that number of students is actually double the 52 beds. We estimated earlier for the family shelter needs…

Dan: Entirely, including adults, parents, whatever. And that’s probably because PS 170 includes kids in neighboring zip codes. Another is that the school data incorporates kids who have been in unstable housing situations in the last four years so maybe it’s throwing a wider net than the DHS shelter census.

But another reason is that not all of the kids are within the shelter system. Some are staying with families or friends. They might be in illegal housing situations, et cetera, et cetera, that are considered unstable.

The Myth of Perverse Incentives

Rachel: This is where we need to talk about perverse incentives, which come up when people try to talk about shelters. And it’s the idea that if we make shelters too attractive or too available, or if we prioritize people in the shelter system for housing vouchers or whatever… people who aren’t homeless will decide to lose their housing in order to get those perks.

Dan: By and large, the idea of perverse incentives has been found to be dramatically overblown. And statistically, it’s pretty clear they’re not real. Catering to people who think they are often sabotages the entire system. And yes, much of why our shelter system is broken can be blamed at least in part on politicians and voters freaking out about perverse incentives.

Preventative Services

Rachel: Another thing we found in the data is that the shelter population of former Bay Ridge residents has stayed stable for the past four or five years, but the percentage of Bay Ridge residents who constitute the overall Brooklyn shelter population has gone up.

Dan: One way to interpret that is that compared to Bay Ridge other neighborhoods are doing a better job of preventing homelessness in the first place.

Rachel: It’s also possible that it means fewer homeless people are entering the shelter system, period, Brooklyn wide, and instead are staying on the streets.

The thing is we don’t have any preventative services in Bay Ridge and other neighborhoods do.

“Home Base” offices

Dan: Yeah. We don’t actually have any preventative facilities in Southern or Southwestern Brooklyn at all. None in Dyker, Bensonhurst, Coney, Sunset. I’m talking about “Home Base” facilities, which are designed to help intervene before someone actually becomes homeless.

Rachel: Can I just say, like, that seems like something advocates could really talk to our elected officials about. That seems like a winning kind of thing, like, “Hey, let’s have an office so that people don’t lose their homes.”

Dan: Yeah. And it’s really popular because they also assist you with getting back on your feet when you leave the shelter system, sure. But it’s also important because people who exit the shelter system through permanent housing, they actually return at very high rates. Especially if they’re relying on housing vouchers.

Home Bases also can help, for example, foster kids who are about to exit that system. And all the other reasons a person might become homeless.

Rachel: And if you are seeking these services, know that our closest Home Base here in Bay Ridge is an hour away, requiring you to take the R to Atlantic, then circle back on the 1 of the 5 and go to Church Avenue in Flatbush.

Dan: Based on recent and occasionally controversial studies, preventative systems have been found to work. In fact, it was homeless prevention that was one of the only things that the Coalition for the Homeless gave the city an “A” grade on… well, an “A-minus”. And in the end, that was mostly because of the recent eviction moratoriums, which let’s face it, are just a form of kicking the eviction can down the road. Another reason why we really got to do some full episodes on affordable housing.

Rachel: In the meantime, the city, and our neighborhood, should expand what works.

Community Advocacy

Dan: With all this information we at Radio Free Bay Ridge have decided to do the last third of this episode by kicking off a larger conversation. We’re making a suggestion of our own.

But first, we want to explain why we feel this conversation has to happen at the community level.

Rachel: First, there are rumblings that a shelter’s already being planned for Bay Ridge or Dyker Heights.

Learning from the lessons of St. Ephrems, The Briarwood, and the “homeless hotel”, NIMBYs have a playbook for this. They respond fast because they get enraged. They out-organize progressives. In this neighborhood, that’s not just embarrassing, it’s dangerous.

Us folks on the side of, you know, not being total assholes, need to be ready and willing to push for what our neighborhood needs.

A Bipartisan Issue

Dan: And we know this isn’t a partisan thing. Liam McCabe, for example, is a guy we disagree with on almost everything. He’s Brian Fox’s current campaign manager, former city council hopeful, among many other things. I want to go into those many other things, but I’m not gonna right now. But we got to give him credit on homeless advocacy.

Rachel: And the owner of Schnitzel Haus wrote a very moving post on Facebook recently about helping a family that camped out under one of the bridges near Leif Erickson park on the highway approach to the Belt Parkway… and how saddened he was to see someone call the Parks Department on the guy and break down his tent.

Dan: Yeah. We need everyone who believes in this cause to be ready. And that means starting that conversation proactively, not reactively.

Rachel: Kind of like what we’re doing here.

Dan: Yes.

Existing Community Initiatives

Rachel: And we’re not saying the community has been doing nothing. CB10 has a policy of encouraging folks to call 311 to get assistance for people who are unsheltered on the street. When you do, Breaking Ground, one of the biggest providers of support to the people who are homeless in New York City, can get a representative out to contact them within two hours.

Dan: There’s also the HOPE count, which is our annual volunteer-powered census of the street homeless across the city. And Bay Ridge always has had good participation in that, thanks to folks from across the neighborhood.

But again, this is the bare minimum that doesn’t actually force the neighborhood to confront a simple truth. While we might pat ourselves on the back and rest easy knowing that someone has come to do outreach because we called 311, there are very few people who want to know that the vast majority of people contacted refuse the shelter they’re brought to.

Refusing Shelter

To quote the Coalition for the Homeless’s 2021 View from the Street report, referring to unsheltered New Yorkers, quote. “It’s not that they hadn’t been approached by city outreach teams. The vast majority, 84%, reported having met outreach workers. But those teams, generally promising nothing more than a trip to a shelter intake facility, we’re not offering anything of value to the respondents.”

Rachel: And that’s not taking Bay Ridge into account specifically. I love this neighborhood. I will fight like I would fight for Buffalo for this neighborhood! But compared to Midtown Manhattan we are a sleepy little backwater. We have very low crime in Bay Ridge, we really do, Republican fear-mongering aside. And we are as isolated as you can get while being within walking distance of the subway.

Dan: We’re a destination for unsheltered New Yorkers who want to be left alone. And streets in Bay Ridge, believe it or not, can be seen as a safer option than a shelter.

Rachel: Especially during COVID, when the vast majority of unsheltered New Yorkers were brought to facilities that were congregate, i.e. communal living spaces in tight quarters… especially the intake facilities.

Dan: With little or no personal protective equipment. Little to no separation. That’s why, if you’ve heard all the controversy over that hotel on the Upper East Side, the Lucerne? That’s why we needed to move folks into those hotels. They were properly isolated, with separate bathrooms. They function as SROs.

The Importance of Calling 311

Rachel: Also we should also take a second to go back because we mentioned calling 311 and having an outreach team talk to somebody who’s on the street.

Dan: Yeah. We need to reiterate, no matter what, you really should do that. Because even the Safe Haven program that we talked about? People need to be contacted multiple times, often over a length of time, essentially proving they’ve been on the street for nine months to be eligible for even something as “open” as a Safe Haven facility. Essentially, their street homelessness status, so to speak has to be officially confirmed.

Rachel: And can I just say the idea that someone should have to be without shelter for nine months before they can get housing assistance is ridiculous. This is a basic human right. The longer someone goes without having safe permanent housing the more extreme their experience becomes. We should be moving people into shelter and housing a lot faster than that.

Dan: Rachel, it sounds like you think the system is broken.

Rachel: God. I thought I was being subtle.

Government Dysfunction

Dan: Further up the chain, the city and state have their own issues when it comes to caring for the homeless.

In fact, this episode is coming out very close to the 40th anniversary of the Callahan Consent Decree, which every single New Yorker should know. It was a landmark case that led to New York being the first and only state to find that shelter, when asked for, was a legal right in our state constitution. If you ask for shelter, it must be provided by the state.

Rachel: And we’re the only state where that’s the case, which is why New York is in many ways the center of the advocacy world for unsheltered people.

Lack of Federal Housing Leadership

Dan: And the crisis we face is the responsibility of all levels of government.

Obviously, the lack of federal funds for housing looms large. This crisis starts with the feds and much of the crisis should be solved there, honestly.

Rachel: Actually, when president Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, it directed around $50 billion to housing and homelessness assistance. You know, who didn’t vote for that assistance?

Dan: (Ironically) What Federal office with relevance to Bay Ridge did not vote for the American Rescue Plan and its $50 billion in housing and homelessness assistance?

Rachel: Our very own radical right-wing rep Nicole Malliotakis.

Dan: I can’t get you off that, can I?

Rachel: No.

Dan: But it tracks.

Rachel: 2022 baby.

City vs State

Dan: While the feds really bear the blame for this, the lower levels of government are not stellar advocates either. For example.

Rachel: The city says that since the state eliminated mental health services and closed state psychiatric facilities in the ’50s and ’60s they should run point on funding homeless services now.

Dan: And the state blames the city for declaring war on SRO units in the ’70s and ’80s, and otherwise taking an entire portion of the urban poor and eliminating the housing type of historically relied on.

Rachel: And this is depressing because the state and the city have actually worked together in the past. The New York/New York agreements from 1990 to 2015. They agreed together to build thousands of units of housing exclusively for single adults who were homeless and had mental disabilities. Later agreements also assisted in providing supportive housing for housing unstable families as well as for single adults with AIDS or who are HIV positive.

Dan: And those days of city and state partnership are long gone and the pipeline of incoming New York/ New York agreement housing has dried up.

Considering the animosity between the mayor and the governor for the last eight years, it’s no surprise that we didn’t get a new agreement. Maybe with Eric Adams that will change? But considering how Cuomo recently decided to sweep at the MTA of homeless neighbors by closing the subway at night, calling them “disgusting“, just as they needed help the most…

Rachel: But wait Andrew Cuomo says he and Eric Adams are progressives because you can’t be progressive without progress.

Dan: That shit put people in danger. It was stigmatizing. It was morally wrong. And we’re not holding our breath for a fourth New York agreement. So we need to advocate for ourselves at the very least.

An Overview of Shelter Types

This leads us to a quick overview of the kinds of shelters that exist.

Cluster Sites

First, you have cluster sites, which are actually being phased out because they suck. It involves paying private apartment owners money to house people. The cluster sites often lack services and you guessed it, are easily taken advantage of by slum lords. Thus they’re being phased out.

Rachel: But that means we need to replace the beds that are being lost. That was actually one of the reasons advocates hated cluster sites in the first place: it took housing off the market in order to make it a shelter. And need we remind you: lack of housing is how we got into this mess. So we need to convert former cluster sites into affordable housing.

Tier II Family Housing

Next, you have Tier II housing, which is for families.

They’re often strictly managed, have separate bathroom facilities and kitchens, social services, private rooms, all that. They’re apartment buildings.

Dan: A good way of thinking about Tier II is to realize there also used to be a Tier I, which were massive open halls filled with beds, dormitory-style. They were banned in ’92 but still linger in the public imagination, especially NIMBYs. The image of entire armories just jammed with people, row after row of cots.

Tier II was the successor to that. More humane, but still rife with problems.

Rachel: Tier I and II styles of accommodations were designed when people were super concerned with those perverse incentives we discussed before. And there are a lot of preconditions to getting into them. Tier I is gone but Tier II is still part of the landscape.

Single Adult Shelters

Dan: Single adult shelters on the other hand can have multiple different types, so to speak. From congregate shelters with little privacy to hostel-style shared room accommodations, to SRO style facilities where everyone gets their own bedroom but may have shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The dormitory-style ones are often intake shelters, which are notoriously difficult to manage and have usually the largest number of beds.

Rachel: It’s intake shelters that often scare individuals away from the shelter system. According to the 2021 Coalition for the Homeless View from the Street report, over half of respondents who had been through the shelter system had left it from an intake center before ever getting processed into permanent or supportive housing.

The Hotel System

Dan: Next, we have the endlessly controversial hotel system, which is basically just the SRO model but where the city pays a private hotel to put people up in its rooms.

This style is not new, though everyone seems to freak out like it is.

Rachel: Way back before the Callahan Consent Decree in the ’80s, the city’s men’s shelters on the Bowery would give out vouchers that could be used at nearby flophouses. After the right to shelter was established, the city kept getting hit with lawsuits demanding they actually fulfill their obligation and they tried to avoid these by paying for hotel rooms.

At the time opponents called them welfare hotels, which becomes “homeless hotels” by the time Marty and Arlene threw their NIMBY tantrum in 2017. Remember: SRO-style units are private, safer than dormitory-style settings, and much more hygienic.

Safe Havens and Mutual Obligation

Dan: The latest shelter model is the Safe Haven, which we mentioned before with the Briarwood. Safe Havens are designed to be appealing to folks who are unsheltered on the street, especially the chronically unsheltered who have refused to accept assistance in the past.

Rachel: To that end, some of the rules are looser than at other shelters. For example, at most shelters, if you don’t return at night you lose your spot.

Dan: So if you were crashing on a friend’s couch for a night, or even had to go to the hospital for a night for a medical emergency, you had to go through a whole new intake process to find a shelter bed again.

Rachel: And a Safe Haven doesn’t do that. The application process is streamlined and there are no requirements to enter into treatment or services.

The Toxicity of Mutual Obligation

Dan: The other shelters have requirements that you must begin treatment in order to stay. Thomas Main in his book “Homelessness in New York City: Policymaking from Koch to de Blasio” calls this the quote “mutual obligation” approach, which Giuliani really popularized.

Mutual Obligation claims that it’s not the lack of housing that causes homelessness, but some flaw in the person who is homeless which they must address as a precondition to gaining shelter.

Rachel: Which is some toxic f**king bullshit.

People lose their homes for numerous reasons. None of those reasons undercuts their basic human right to shelter. To precondition housing, which is a legal human right in New York, on accepting intervention for an issue society thinks you need to address in order to deserve housing is again: paternalistic infantilizing, toxic, f**king bullshit.

Housing Is Healthcare

Dan: And there’s another excellent phrase: Housing is Healthcare. In many cases simply having that bed, having a private space, having a bathroom and a kitchen… is treatment. I think anyone can understand that concept no matter what you’re going through. Basic human dignity, sanitation, and privacy can have a major health impact.

Rachel: And that’s not abstract. Being forced to sit up for periods of time, lack of sleep due to being moved every few hours by the police, or having to deal with hostile architecture like spikes on window ledges or bars sticking out of benches, can cause major medical issues or make existing problems worse.

Dan: So Safe Havens are an important part of getting people on the path to housing. They give a person a place to stay while they get the necessary identification and paperwork that we mentioned earlier needed to get a stable home. Acquire basic income. Figure out your social security number. That kind of thing. Safe Havens are a place to stay while folks help you overcome the things that are keeping you from being placed in long-term housing… and only those things, with no other judgments or preconditions.

Giving Outreach Workers A Boost

Rachel: And even more important is that placement in Safe Havens is streamlined for the outreach workers as well. They get to make the call on who’s assigned a bed, not bureaucrats. Safe Havens are an extension and upgrade to the outreach teams who already work in our neighborhood. They give outreach teams something immediate and concrete to offer if a chronically homeless person decides to accept housing. Not just a sandwich, or a card with an address on it, or the promise of shelter but only if they accept the following 15 rules and give up their ability to make their own choices or agreed to enter a program they mean not be ready for.

Safe Havens are popular for that reason. The 1,232 Safe Haven beds as of 2021 that we have in this city are filled to capacity nearly every day. But as the Coalition for the Homeless points out, one HOPE count on a cold night in January counted over 3,000 people spending the night on the streets.

We need more Safe Havens.

The Bay Ridge Shelter Plan

Dan: Which brings us to what we here at Radio Free Bay Ridge would humbly propose.

Rachel: And this is just a conversation starter. We don’t have addresses, budgets, or completion dates for this plan. But we think the idea syncs up with what the city and advocacy organizations are calling for… and what our neighborhood has to do to meet those calls.

Dan: Yeah. So we feel that Bay Ridge is best served by two shelters, which combined can serve a number of people equal to or a little greater than what Bay Ridge historically adds into the DHS shelter system. In short, for the first time, we’d be pulling our weight.

The Family Shelter

One site would be for families and with preferential treatment for folks who are escaping domestic violence, AKA Nova diversions, or are victims of illegal conversions, also call three-quarter houses. But that obviously shouldn’t be a requirement.

It should be located in Northern Bay Ridge within a 5 to 10-minute walking distance of PS 170… or if it’s elsewhere, another elementary school with a locally high rate of children experiencing housing instability.

Rachel: My old street Ovington Avenue? That’s a great place to start when it comes to location scouting since there are numerous empty lots along that street.

The facilities should absolutely be brand new so as not to eliminate any existing housing stock. We’re in a housing crisis if anyone’s forgotten. And be able to accommodate 20 families with at least 70 beds, it should also be equipped with wifi and remote learning facilities for students for the next pandemic or the next wave of this one. And it obviously should have fully separate bathroom and kitchen facilities which is standard nowadays for family housing.

The Safe Haven

Dan: The second site should be open to single adults and function as a Safe Haven, much like the old Briarwood was intended to be. It would be small for a Safe Haven at 50 units, and ideally located in the industrial triangle in the low ’90s, kind of where Fourth and Fifth merge. That would help keep it away from more panicky NIMBYs, sure, but it would also be ideal in that it’s located at the end of the R line at 95th and within walking distance of numerous parks which have long been identified as common spots for unsheltered and chronic homeless, as well as 86th street and all the transit opportunities that provides.

Rachel: It would (theoretically at least) become an essential part in how we respond to street homelessness in this neighborhood. And it’s proximity and low barrier to entry would hopefully dramatically improve the likelihood of an unsheltered neighbor to accept a bed.

Dan: That’s it. That’s the plan. It’s that simple.

And this plan, I want to be very upfront about this, does not solve the housing crisis that has led so many of our neighbors to be homeless. It does not truly provide the services that are needed. It does little in the way of making the system more dignified. It does little to de-stigmatize. It does little to provide self-determination. It does little to reverse the upstream failures in the system.

This modest plan provides emergency shelter. That’s all. It’s what we in Bay Ridge can do at a bare minimum. And we should do it all the same.

Going Further

Rachel: It’s possible to ask for more. And so we also wanted to point out some other things we can do immediately to help our neighbors who lack a key to a place of their own.

First: demand more supportive housing in our neighborhood. That means to allow zoning changes that support new residential development and demand it be truly affordable.

Public Bathrooms and Showers

Dan: Another thing we can do is begin advocating for public restrooms and showering facilities. For unsheltered Bay Ridgeites who reject shelters, this can be a simple way to provide some dignity and give an opportunity for self-determination and fulfill basic health needs.

Rachel: But Dan! What about the perverse incentive of offering someone a shower? Doesn’t that just encourage them not to go into the shelter system? Shouldn’t we be careful about making sleeping on the streets so comfortable that people just want to keep doing it?

Dan: No! Because what we choose to do isn’t about them. It’s about us. We’re already complicit by denying them these things. We’re already complicit because we as a neighborhood have failed over and over again to do our fair share for them. Perverse incentives don’t exist.

Rachel: These simple things aren’t charity. It’s just treating them and ourselves like adults.

Dan: I can’t think of a better place for a public shower and toilet facility than off the 95th street stop on the R, on or around the Fort Hamilton Triangle. It’s that tiny little triangle park where Fourth and Fifth merge. And it’s been chained shut for years. Chained shut to everyone. All Bay Ridgeites. Because some folks wanted to keep homeless people from sleeping there.

Rachel: Perfect example of NIMBYs cutting off our nose to spite their own faces. But I digress.

Another perfect spot would be the old historic park comfort station down near 101st on Shore Road… which can I say is a surprisingly well-kept and clean public restroom. Nice job, Parks Department.

Dan: They need all of the compliments they can get.

That space has seen some unsheltered folks actually camp out on top of it in years past, and much of it has been closed over the years out of concerns that homeless neighbors might use it. Again, I say renovate, restore and staff it.

And obviously, the best location for a public restroom and shower facility would be the single adult’s shelter that we advocated for earlier.

Preserve and Protect Affordable and Rent-Controlled Apartments

Rachel: Another thing we can do is pay much closer attention to shitty landlords. We’ve had some of the top slumlords in the city operate out of Bay Ridge. Some of them are civic leaders. And they’ve been woefully ignored.

Dan: We’ll get to that soon too. But while we’re at it, we need to make sure that we stop hemorrhaging affordable and rent-controlled apartments in this neighborhood.

Rachel: And we need to ensure that landlords, especially the worst of them, actually accept city vouchers for those seeking subsidized housing… because they’ll find ways to avoid renting to those in need if it means accepting vouchers.

Dan: Yeah, it’s happened. It’s happened.

Rachel: It’s part of Bay Ridge’s as long history as a redlined neighborhood.

Ending “Sweeps”

Dan: We also need to stop demanding that our Community Board, or our police at the 68th precinct, or our Parks Department, or our Department of Sanitation, “sweep” homeless encampments. We need to stop rousting people out and then not care where they end up.

Marty Golden: (Clip from 2018) We need to be able to tell this builder of this hotel where he should go.

Person In Crowd: (Shouting) Anywhere else!

Dan: They should get to stay until they actually receive outreach and care and move of their own volition. Full stop.

Rachel: I’m sorry, that sounds like treating them like responsible adults.

Increasing Our Bed Count

And lastly, we can actually go beyond this proposal. We can build more spaces. Add more beds. We can let people across the city who like this neighborhood… who like it for what it is and what it’s done… choose to be in a shelter here.

Dan: Yeah. If housing is healthcare, you can bet that being in a wonderful neighborhood like ours can be too. We can do more than our fair share. Not simply because we can, but because…

Rachel: We’re simply the best. Yeah.


Undoing a NIMBY legacy

As we said at the start, our neighborhood has a track record of mounting formidable opposition to housing our unhoused. And that has a major dampening effect on how much good we can do.

Dan: Here are the recollections of a few very important advocates for the homeless, reflecting back on their experiences with siting shelters in resistant communities back when Fair Share first started in the nineties as interviewed by Thomas Main for his book, “Homelessness in New York City“.

Anne Tiecher, who worked for the city at the time, said, “We went to a meeting in Staten Island. I was afraid. They were horrible. I was afraid I was going to come out and find flat tires. They were just brutal. They really were brutal. It was really painful because of the way things came out, it just hit the fan. We’re going to put all these shelters all over the city. They were going to be horrible. You know what shelters are like, blah blah blah. And we don’t want these people. And NIMBY. It just activated the NIMBY response all over.”

Rachel: And from Nancy Wackstein, who worked under the Dinkins administration:

“I probably still have scars on my back from going to Community Board meetings. They didn’t want homeless family facilities but even more, they didn’t want facilities for single adults. Because there was a very widespread perception that they were either addicts, crazy, or like, people with AIDS. So there was the sense that they were these people who are going to bring disruption to the neighborhoods. So it was very hard to get everything sited.”

Rejecting Fear

Dan: You’ll notice we really didn’t discuss the fear-mongering elephant in the room, where people feel threatened by their fellow neighbors who are unsheltered. Threatened by, yes, the higher incidence of substance abuse and mental health issues that homeless folks, especially single adults, face.

Rachel: And the reason we haven’t discussed that fear-mongering elephant is because it is some toxic f**king bullshit.

Dan: Our response to those fears is this: doesn’t matter.

That one concern does not and cannot override everything else we said here today. It does not provide an excuse for dragging our feet on basic human rights. And let’s be clear in New York State it is a legal human right.

NIMBYs, your fear doesn’t override another person’s rights. And we’re not going to waste our time trying to change your mind. There are stats I could quote. I can prove to you that it is not a problem. This episode is for folks who want to fix this.

The Petition

Rachel: For the folks who agree, Bay Ridge cares about our neighbors.

Dan: And if that you, please go to our show notes at RadioFreeBayRidge.org. We have a petition there that we’d love for you to sign. If you’ve gotten this far, please do. Let’s see if we can break that old 1985 NIMBY petition that got 2000 votes against it for five to seven beds… and get over 2000 votes for a yes for over a hundred.

Rachel: And until next time everyone.

Dan: Stay free, Bay Ridge.

This episode was recorded on July 27th, 2021 with Daniel Hetteix and Rachel Brody. All post-production and editing was done by our producer, Daniel Hetteix.

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