MANHATTAN – Nine months after neighbors started a petition to keep a planned homeless shelter from being built on their Upper East Side block, demolition of the dilapidated, boarded-up building on the East 91st Street between First and York Avenues is now underway— the project, apparently full steam ahead despite thousands of signatures against it.
Demolition crews can now be seen working at the site, located at 419 East 91st Street in Yorkville, taking down the old building piece by piece.
Last January, Community Board 8 voted to approve a planned seven-story, ‘safe haven’ shelter in its place— to be operated by non-profit social services provider, Goddard Riverside.
Housing eighty-eight beds, the planned shelter will be available to both homeless men and women— primarily from the Upper East Side, but other parts of New York City as well— who wouldn’t be required to leave the building during the day. Instead, shelter residents would be provided meals and snacks and have access to a recreation area on the roof.
Goddard describes the site as ‘transitional housing’ rather than a shelter because residents have their own private space for the duration of their stay.
Almost immediately, neighbors stepped in to protest the proposed shelter citing safety concerns for children— even going as far as to start an online petition which now has more than 3,700 signatures.
“We have extreme empathy towards the adults seeking help and shelter…” reads the Change.org petition, “however we do not have security to uphold the safety of the hundreds of children that frequent this area.“
Next door to the proposed homeless shelter is NYC Elite Gymnastics. Owner Tina Feriola started the petition which says “hundreds, if not thousands, of children frequent this city block, often times alone, in commute to school and sport activities.”
As part of the shelter’s approval by the Community Board, Goddard Riverside promised to provide indoor security around the clock, as well as outdoor security for twelve hours daily, during the busiest time of day.
“Homeless people need help but our children needs protection,” concerned neighbor Barbara Adriano wrote as her reason for signing the petition,“ and a shelter can be put in a different area where there are not so many families with children.”
Additionally, the non-profit promised to work with the Community Board, nearby schools, Asphalt Green and neighbors to “ensure security during key hours.”
On Tuesday, NYC Elite Gymnastics confirmed to Upper East Site that “Goddard Riverside has not reached out to us in any way at this time.”
“I care about the safety of 91st Street,” Upper East Side parent Lee Klausner lists as their reason for signing the petition, “our three daughters attend school on the same street as the site of the proposed homeless shelter.”
The planned shelter is expected to open next year.