UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — A proposed shelter on the Upper East Side won the unanimous backing of a community board committee on Wednesday, as members expressed hope that the new facility could help the neighborhood's street homeless population find more permanent housing.
The 88-bed shelter is set to open in January 2022 on East 91st Street between First and York avenues. It will be run by Goddard Riverside, the housing-focused nonprofit that is headquartered on the Upper West Side and operates nearly two dozen locations around Manhattan.
An existing building at the current site will be torn down to make way for the new seven-story structure, which will be purpose-built as a shelter serving single adult men and women.
The facility will be a Safe Haven — a type of shelter with a low threshold for admission, whose primary goal is to get people off the streets and into a safe bed. The site will offer social and meal services, counseling, and a rooftop recreational area.
A number of elected officials joined Wednesday's Community Board 8 meeting to speak out in favor of the shelter. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, whose office had advocated for the facility, said it would serve the neighborhood's street homeless residents who are already visible in places like subway stations.
"There's one person on 86th Street on the downtown entrance, there's one person on the northbound entrance ... we all know who they are, we know what they look like," he said.
State Sen. Liz Krueger, whose East Side district includes two other Safe Havens, said neighbors have welcomed the facilities.
"The communities are very glad that they opened and they're actually seeing a difference in people on their streets or not on their streets," Krueger said.
Some residents said the apparent support for the shelter contrasted with the Upper East Side's reputation as a less-than-welcoming neighborhood for the homeless. Resident Ben Wetzler said he hoped the shelter's move-in would be conflict-free, unlike the recent battles on the Upper West Side.
"I'm really hopeful that our neighborhood will be more welcoming and do a better job of working with you," he said.
No one at Wednesday's meeting said they opposed the shelter, although two neighbors expressed concerns about safety. In response, representatives from Goddard Riverside said the shelter would have 24/7 security, as well as psychiatry services for any seriously mentally ill people admitted there.
Among the shelter's supporters were two students at East Side Middle School, located down the block from the future facility.
"I feel that it is very important to help people feel welcome so that they can accept these services," said seventh-grader Ahana. "It's also important to empathize with others to try to understand how you would feel if you were in their situation."
The shelter, and the supporting resolution passed on Wednesday, will be discussed again at CB8's full board meeting on Jan. 20.