Last-minute change of heart on shelter 1

The red-brick building on 101st Avenue at 86th Street is ready to open late next month, but the Department of Homeless Services disclosed this week it has changed its mind about using it solely to house men with histories of mental problems.

In a suprise, last-minute move, the city this week said it is dropping plans to put 113 men with mental problems into a shelter in Ozone Park next month.

“We won,” read a post on the Ozone Park Residents Block Association’s Facebook page last Tuesday night. “It is a small win. But a win nevertheless.”

The excitement was over a report issued late Tuesday afternoon disclosing that the shelter would house a large group of men, but that it would no longer be designated as a residential home for those with histories of mental disorders.

Instead, the building on 101st Avenue, a former church bought two years ago and converted into a shelter late last year, will be used as “temporary” housing for “single adults.”

In the parlance of the Department of Homeless Services, that includes men who are simply homeless and seeking permanent housing.

“We fought against the mentally ill men being placed on 10st Avenue and we won that battle,” said the OPRBA’s post.

“We realize that we still could be faced with some problems with 113 men, but it is a far cry from the challenges we were facing,” it read.

The residents association last summr sued to stop the shelter but lost in court recently.

The group’s president, Sam Esposito, said last week that he was looking at ways to go after the city in court again in concert with other neighborhoods where shelters are planned.

“I believe they backed down to avoid another lawsuit,” Esposito told the Chronicle Tuesday night.

Not everyone was ready to call the city’s change of heart a victory.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who represents Ozone Park, asked the mayor and Department of Homeless Services at Gracie Mansion last week to reconsider the plan for the shelter.

DHS Commissioner Steven Banks told him then that the shelter would be designated for “single adults” when it opened, Addabbo said.

“I advocated for them to please choose another population [for the shelter] — women, families, vets,” he said. “And I said 113 is way too many for a residential neighborhood like that.” The senator said he suggested 75 might be more managable.

But when DHS issued its report last Tuesday — a legally required notice to Community Board 9 and other city officials it intends to open the new facility in 30 days — Addabbo said he was disappointed that the population was not reduced or changed to something other than single men.

“Housing single adult men near a school is a recipe for disaster and threatens the safety of our children,” Councilman Eric Ulrich (D-Ozone Park) said. “The proposed changes aren’t helpful and they may even make it worse.

“The homeless population in New York has only increased under Mayor de Blasio’s watch, and his only response is to destroy our neighborhoods and threaten the safety of our children. We need real solutions, not de Blasio’s reckless agenda.”