Amid Legal Battle, Judge Halts Construction Of Homeless Shelter In Rockaways

Mack Rosenberg
January 19, 2020 - 6:35 pm
Rockaway Beach

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – A battle is brewing over a proposal for a men’s homeless shelter in the Rockaways, with a judge temporarily halting construction on the shelter amid an outcry by the community.

The battle is between Rockaway residents and the city’s Department of Homeless Services, which wants to build a shelter on Beach 101st Street.

Among the questions at the heart of the court fight: Is a homeless shelter considered a mental health facility?

“The mental hygiene law says that you can only have 48 beds if you’re having residents that are mentally ill, because mentally disabled people need more special attention. You can’t warehouse them in these large-scale facilities,” attorney Mike Scala said.

Scala represents the neighborhood and says that, yes, a homeless shelter falls under that law and therefore the proposal of more than 100 single homeless men is too much.

But the issues don’t end there, he says.

“We’re talking about a three-block-wide peninsula. Certainly a very vulnerable population. Still recovering in many ways from Hurricane Sandy. Some people are still not back in their homes. You’re in the middle of a flood zone, evacuation options are very limited,” Scala said.

On Friday, a state Supreme Court judge halted any further construction on the shelter for the next week. The temporary restraining order lasts through Jan. 27, when the parties are due back in court.

The Department of Homeless Services hasn’t commented.