Controversy Arises as Homeless Shelter for Women is Set to be Built Next to Playground on Upper West Side

Members of the affluent community are claiming that the building’s proximity to Ederle playground poses a safety threat to their children

| 28 Jul 2023 | 01:38

Upper West Side residents are expressing concerns over the construction of a planned homeless shelter for women which is slated to be built next to a playground on W. 59th St. between Amsterdam and West End Ave.

Members of the affluent community are claiming that the building’s proximity to Ederle playground poses a safety threat to their children.

“I have just drafted legislation, and I’m hoping the City Council member will make sure that homeless shelter can never be built next to a playground,” Brad Gertsman, a lawyer hired to represent the parents of Ederle playground, told PIX11 News.

A parent organizer at the playground, Heather Groeger, added, “to place a smoking lounge next to a playground is unsafe — two smoking lounges.”

The shelter is being developed in partnership with Project Renewal, a non-profit that provides housing, healthcare, and employment services to homeless New Yorkers. Project Renewal’s website indicates that shelter residents who wish to smoke must do so on the third floor terrace — which is 18 feet above the park and surrounded by a 6-foot fence — or in the courtyard, which has no sight line into the park.

“One of the intentions behind the courtyard design was to ensure that clients who smoke can finish their cigarettes there and not on the sidewalk. Clients will not be sent out from the building to smoke in the courtyard; they will be directed to the third-floor terrace,” the organization’s website details.

Security will be contracted to patrol the shelter and its vicinity, including the park where the playground resides. All shelter residents will have a curfew of 11 p.m. and will not be allowed visitors.

Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer, however, opposes the construction of the West 59th St. shelter. In a letter addressed to the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, Molly Park, Brewer points out: “I have supported shelters in other parts of Manhattan and my district, often when there is criticism from the neighborhood. In this case, the people of the city of New York are paying for a NEW shelter when there is an appeal all over the five boroughs for permanently affordable units; why is this site not constructing what every New Yorker is asking for?”

According to data collected by Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930. During December 2022, New York City’s main municipal shelter system provided nightly accommodation for a distressing total of 68,884 homeless individuals, which included 21,805 homeless children.

Plans for the shelter were announced in December 2020 and Brewer has advocated for the development of permanent housing in its place since 2021. The shelter is expected to open in 2025.