UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — An Upper East Side community board voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to support a proposed low-threshold shelter set to open next year in Yorkville.
With 46 votes in favor, one opposed and one abstention, members of Community Board 8 approved a resolution backing the Safe Haven shelter, which will be housed in a new seven-story building at 419 East 91st St., between First and York avenues.
The 88-bed shelter will be run by Goddard Riverside, a housing-focused nonprofit based on the Upper West Side that runs nearly two dozen facilities around the city.
Supporters said the new shelter will provide safe housing for unhoused people who are already a visible presence on the Upper East Side. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who worked to bring the shelter to the neighborhood, mentioned a man he sees on the street most days on East 93rd Street and Second Avenue.
"Does the man on 93rd have to stay there for the rest of his life, or can we offer him something two blocks away?" Kallos said.
"No fanfare, no problem"
Safe Havens have low thresholds for admission because their main goal is to get people off the streets and into a bed. The 91st Street facility will offer social and meal services, counseling, and a rooftop recreational area.
It will also have 24/7 security, as well as psychiatry services for any seriously mentally ill people who are admitted. It will serve single adult men and women.
About 10 people joined the meeting to speak out against the shelter, saying they had received little advance notice and citing safety concerns about nearby youth-focused programs like Asphalt Green.
Tina Ferriola, owner of NYC Elite Gymnastics, said she worried about the safety of young girls who often walk alone to her facility, which is next door to the future shelter.
"We have had countless families and customers of our facility calling continuously since Friday with grave concerns and worries for the safety of their children," she said.
Most speakers, however, supported the shelter. Among them was Dale, an eighth-grader at East Side Middle School, which sits about a block west on 91st Street.
"This is going to be an immense help for the homeless," she said. "And by helping people in need, we strengthen our entire community."
Supporters also pointed to the number of shelters that already operate successfully on the Upper East Side, including the Bentley Hotel, where roughly 300 men have been staying since the beginning of the pandemic, with few of the fireworks that followed a similar shelter on the West Side.
"We welcomed the same number of people to a hotel in the neighborhood," Kallos said. "No fanfare, no problem, the men can stay."
After the vote, Kallos pointed out on Twitter that all of the candidates running to replace him in this year's District 5 City Council election had spoken in favor of the shelter.
"I couldn't be prouder," he wrote.