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MSCC September 17, 2020 Meeting Minutes

(MSCC) September 23, 2020

Location: Zoom

Date: Thursday, September 17, 2020

Time: 6:30 pm-7:30pm

Chair person:  John Mudd

Welcome and Introductions

John Mudd provided for introductions and outlined the use of the chat box for the recording of other issues not referred to in the agenda program

OVERVIEW OF OUR HOMELESS AND HOUSING CRISIS

John Mudd referenced The Homeless and Housing committee’s September meeting which was focused on transforming underutilized properties in an over commercialized midtown into housing opportunities. See the Council’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/537585579597175/videos/769605333867125/ or Midtown South Community Council @Midtownsouthnyc

STREET CONDITIONS

John Mudd:

  • Summarizedcommunity emails and highlighted some specifics (see addendum B)
  • Explained shelter concerns from community perspectives
  • Characterized people living in the shelters and Streets from the social services and client perspectives
  • Noted the transfer of clients (pressured by UWS community members) from Lucerne Hotel to other locations has been put on hold
    • The move would have destabilize Harmonia’s shelter’s progress, uproot families, and create job loss
  • JCC phone number 212-607-6040 is for our midtown area concerns for the street homeless and shelters

Inspector Brendan Timoney outlined the issues facing midtown. Some include:

  • Individual apprehended for the broken windows at local Duane Reade pharmacy
  • Concerns for the Bail reform and Police reforms but NYPD is still working to ensure safety of community
  • 3,000 people being moved into midtown has created challenges for community and NYPD
    • The # 3,000 people sheltered within the whole command, which is the midtown south from 55 Street to 29th Street and from 9th Avenue to Lexington. “A good portion of the hotels were 36-44 street, 8th-9th Avenue” 
  • Reassured community members to call precinct if NYPD presence is not seen, and Inspector would follow up on concerns
  • DHS needs to check on clients regarding masks and social distancing
  • Most hotels are co-operating and following COVID guidelines
  • There are two hotels charging below standard rates, are not following COVID protocols; resulting in antisocial activities. They are privately managed and are not under DHS oversight 

Britt Melewski, Breaking Ground, outlined some of their work:

  • Case managers, teams and outreach are all working to see everyone on the street 
  • Partnering with Times Square Alliance for outreach
  • Midtown Homeless Report is updated weekly. John Mudd will email this to members
  • See submitted weekly report

Lauren Curatalo outlined Midtown Community Court Work

  • Reassured community that summons can be issued  for people who do not clean up after their dogs
  • Court is working with the North Precinct
  • Planning Prevention outreach where Court personnel available on day of arrest for people to access services
  • Partnering with Fountain House to help provide mental health Rapid Engagement Program
  • Partnering with other organizations including Breaking Ground

John Mudd

  • Chelsea Ryan Health Clinic are in the neighborhood regularly with their medical mobile units
  • NYC Council’s action are doing Book drives
  • Is working towards meeting with shelter managers 
  • Agreed to work with Steven Diamond to bring people together: Action is Bi-weekly meeting with Cory Johnson office, NYPD, DHS, etc

Community Suggestions included

  • Outdoor movie theater idea
  • Clean up routines and payments for people who are homeless 

 AOB

Next Meeting October 15, 2020 (NOTE: meeting dates will change after the new year. Information will be forwarded with the changes before the end of the year) 

Meeting closed 7.40PM

Meeting closed 7.40PM

ACTIONS

Current action in progress or in development:

  • Send meeting minutes to all parties of interest
  • Seek update/summaries of actions through committees, presentations, emails, or other from the below partners:
    • Homeless services Outreach
    • DHS
    • NYC Council
    • Community Court
    • DA’s Office
    • Midtown South Precinct
    • NCO
  • Additional Actions see Addendum C

COMMUNITY ISSUES

  • See Addendum for current emailed issues
  • New issues
    • Unsettling shelter transition
    • Stabbing on 31st Street between 5th and Broadway

ADDENDUM A: COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES

President and Executive Director

Bill Ottersen, VP

Sharon Jasprizza, Community Service Director

Josephine Ishmon, Director of Youth, Education, & Human Rights 

Allen Oster, Director of Community Relations 

Marni Hasan Director of Youth Culture program

Lenise Dazzel-Harris, Community Food Program Director

Leslie Boghosian Murphy, Community Precinct & Council Relations 

Charisma White, Homeless and Housing Advocacy 

Eugene Sinigalliano, Director of Beautification and Gardens 

Allen Oster, Director of Community Relations

ADDENDUM B: COMMUNITY CONCERNS

GENERAL 

COVID-19 is vividly showing us our pre-existing social crisis that was hidden or easily ignored with a busy city.  We have 80,000 give or take who are without housing; this includes approximately 60,000 sheltered (includes over 44,300 children), 3,600 living on the streets, others dispersed in emergency wards, living in cars, couch surfing, and doubling up with family and friends. “Princeton University’s Eviction Lab estimates up to 40 million people are now at risk of eviction in the coming months.”

What is hampering the cure for the homeless and housing crisis, is the continual degradation of communities for the extraction of wealth. The many hotels littering our neighborhood will tell you as much. We’re glad to have you share your concerns for our social crisis. These concerns are important to us. To begin to understand the core root of the problem is to find the pathway forward. We look forward to your participation to improve the quality of life in Midtown Manhattan.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM EMAILED COMPLAINTS

Note: When documenting, reporting, emailing, etc. concerns, it is important to be specific with day, date, time, description, location (NE, south, west…corners, exact address when possible). Also, please be present if possible during meetings opened for public to discuss follow up and solutions.

Highlights from July 2, 2020 meeting with community and business members, NYC Council, Outreach, Shelter providers, and others

  • Business having windows broken, defecating in front of restaurants
  • The men loiter all day long on the street, tree rail guards as seats, makeshift table, eat and litter on the street, verbally harassed each time he(?) leaves his home
  • A neighbor (?) mugged and then saw perp the following day enter one of the hotels. The ones(?) on the street are not socially distancing, not wearing masks
  • Need to address immediate safety issues – masks and harassment on the street. Long term – 36th cannot absorb over 500 people

Sanders Investment, Lisa He

  • Need “guidance on how to deal with the drug addicts, drug related activities and other issues in front of our buildings on 9th Avenue” [and 38th Street (NE)]. A tenant(?) residing at 574 9th Avenue was robbed in front of the building. A rise of various illegal activities going on (?). My buildings (?) are constantly being broken into by ppl looking for a place to do drugs. People are even dealing drugs in the broad daylight out in the open on the corner of 9th Avenue and 42nd Street and the phone booth in front of 568 9th Avenue…. complaints with 311 to have that phone booth removed because no one uses it to make phone calls but instead they use it to urinate, defecate, use and sell drugs. …Losing tenants and are having difficulty renting out vacant apartments. For the 1st time in the 6 years that I’ve been managing these buildings, I fear for my safety especially after an incident I had with a homeless woman on 9th Avenue where she tried to hit me and was using racial slurs at me because i refuse to give her money

Lilia Pino Blouin, 502 9th Ave Condo Association

  • “…large groups of homeless men hanging out all day unmasked in front of Il Puntos’ shuttered doors had became very worrying, and there was even a death on the street…. We have been alerting City Agencies and Outreach all along; I personally use the 311 app almost on a daily basis, but nothing seems to happen. I went from being sad and frustrated to fearing for my life now.
  • I have witnessed gatherings of dozens of unmasked men hanging out all day in front of Il Punto, urinating against the wall, pretty much every single day since March. A couple of weeks ago, I saw someone shooting up in broad daylight at 3 pm in front of Penn Station. I have been very aggressively approached on the street several times over the past month, for the first time in 12 years

Deb, 502 9th Ave Condo Association 

  • Noticeable “uptick in crime in recent weeks…49th and 9th, as my wife and I were sitting for dinner:
  • …Noticed a shirtless man walking southbound on the sidewalk with a chainsaw
  • …Received numerous alerts on my Citizen app notifying me of violent crime in the area. This is fairly typical most nights of the week:
    • 1:30pm: 2 men fighting with knives at W. 25th St & 10th Ave
    • 4:30am: Person assaulted at 325 W. 37th St
    • 2:30am: Report of attempted assault with hot iron at 9th Ave and W. 36th St
    • 2:30am: Man assaulted at W. 48th St & 8th Ave
    • 2:30am: 5 men fighting at W. 39th St & 8th Ave
    • 10pm last night: Report of Man Armed with Machete at Times Square NQRW subway stop
  • A 49 year old man was stabbed to death at W. 38th St & 9th Ave on Saturday (?) evening around 9:15pm. …
  • While I can’t confirm which hotels are housing how many homeless people, I can confirm that there is a ton of public urination, feces, shopping carts, office furniture, trash, and countless people sleeping on the streets during the day as they are supposedly only allowed inside the hotels at night. …while some of the homeless may have been saved from COVID, several have been attacked or killed due to violence. …Most of these homeless people, mind you, are not wearing masks

Julia Campanelli

  • …encampment has taken up residence on Dyer Ave between W34th and W35th streets and grows in size number daily. There are currently 6 encampments on both the east and west sides of Dyer Ave next to residential buildings
  • The homeless are openly selling and using drugs (shooting up), are aggressive towards local residents (spitting, yelling, blocking traffic demanding handouts), are throwing their trash onto the properties of the Webster Hotel and 433 W34 Street, do not wear masks, are not social distancing, and are blocking the sidewalks with tents, furniture, mattresses, bicycles, and suitcases
  • Some have tried entering residential buildings and are harassing building employees
  • I make 311 requests daily, as do other residents, and every day I receive a text saying N/A or case closed
  • No one from DHS has visited the site. I sit at my computer at my window all day and see the encampments. They have not been visited from any city agency. They have been visited by drug dealers and drug buyers
  • The situation is degrading daily. Additionally, there are new graffiti tags on buildings, walls, fences and sidewalks  every day. This is being done at night

Nick, Nayana Currimbhoy

  • 11:45 AM EDT, 09/01/20
  • I am on the board of 347 W 39th Street. You had asked to be kept abreast of events: there was a murder on the corner of 39th and 9th last night/this morning. I did see police and medics, and detectives – but no press. Do not know any further details

Note: For full email in copied Agenda 9.17.20a

ADDENDUM C: SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS

Midtown’s COVID AND Hotel/Shelter ISSUES 

The restaurant owners, who were at the 2:00pm meeting on July 2, 2020, are desperate to salvage their operations. They are not planning to go down without a fight. the odds are against them, as the pandemic becomes more worrisome, and as is our future for the next few years. The owner of Tavola, who owns his own building  may be able to wait it out, close up, and reopen, depending on his leverage debt.

Restaurants will fair far worse than most businesses during COVID: they are non essential and more prone to spreading the virus. Experts have given the restaurants a 75% chance, I estimate higher. I’ve spent a considerable amount of my time in the restaurant business and understand the challenges restauranteurs are facing. Operating at 10% of their previous income levels will not carry them forward. When operating at full capacity the profit margins are thin. A good operator may have 13% profit margin, give or take a few points. I’ve known many who were proud of their 7% profit margin. The restaurant owners, who attended the aforementioned meeting, and operate on the 9th Avenue strip between 38th to 35th Street have invested emotionally and financially in their businesses.

There is no immediate vaccine for COVID-19. Midtown, a heavily commercialized area, relies too heavily on tourism, and has an imbalance of hotels, with very little housing. Tourists will not be roaring back anytime soon. These business owners who’ve invested so much of their lives in their businesses are screaming through their inability to change the course of their lives. The added concentration of shelters have added to our incredulous reality. COVID-19 highlights the severity of our homeless crisis, and the tentativeness of our lives.

PROBLEMS

The main problems for these restaurants are COVID and no trade. The immediate and controllable problems are from the shelters and street homeless include: Harassment, threats and feeling threatened, disruptive behaviors, damaged property, defecation, intimidation, lounging on sidewalks, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. The intensity of which is frightening for some.

Remarks were made that the Methadone clinics added to the problem. The MTS Precinct and MSCC have a good relationship with the clinics, they have been here a long time, and are very well managed. The security for the clinics are hyper vigilant. If there are any problems with individuals from the clinics, it is very minute. The people going to the clinics are there to recover from addictions.

The people staying in the hotel shelters and congregating on the sidewalks, combined with the increase of people who are living on the streets, make the community intensely uncomfortable. The concentration of shelters in the Midtown South location, particularly the three mentioned below, have placed many unhoused people in the area.

SHELTERS

The shelters are not the real problem, but it’s the focus of the restaurant owners and residents. To discuss this will delay our service to the public’s interest and belongs to a bigger discussion and problem.

The three hotel shelters discussed at the meeting were:

  • Springhill Suites / 338 W 36 St., / Single Adults, / 200 / Substance abuse, / managed by Black Veterans (BVSJ) / (Jelani), / 24 hour number if complaints/support: 347-493-1740 / 934-800-8941 / Or call Watson Hotel directly Jumaine HRA – send text first 646-544-8055 /jmashariki@bvsj.org,https://bvsj.org/profile-
  • Double Tree by Hilton, 341 W 36 St., / Single adults / 318 / managed by NAICA (pronounced NI-KA) / Ricardo Cosme Ruiz Director Intergovernmental and Community Affairs / 929-502-9456 / Rcosme@naicany.org
  • Hilton Garden, 326 W 37 St, / Single women / 294 / managed by ICL, Women with mental illness and mental illness / Janine MH

SUPPORTIVE OPTIONS

First order of business would be to discover where exactly the communities complaints stems from. It may be best to evaluate the shelters independently, it may prove to be more efficient to share, consolidate, and coordinate resources.

The above hotel shelter operators’ histories and management models should be reviewed. It was mentioned that the Springhill Suites, that is managed by the Black Vets, has successful operations elsewhere. Maybe the problem lies with the other two hotel shelters. People have different problems, which calls for different services and pipelines.

Answers to the following questions will help to better assess shelter management needs:

  • How many people are part of the security team?
  • When and where are they stationed?
    • What are the instructions?
  • What other staff support do they have?
  • What programs are available in house? 
  • What programs are needed?
    • Perhaps other providers can help support
    • Perhaps community could support
  • What are the COVID policies? Are they providing PPE? 
    • What efforts are made to encourage PPE uses?

CAB (Community ) Meetings

The above bullet points can be addressed during regular CAB meetings in order to adapt to ongoing changes. 

CAB meetings are opportunities for the community and city representatives to review and keep updated with shelter management and operations. CAB meetings work. Not only do they inform the public of progress and changes for our emotionally, medically, financially, dependent, and socially challenged community members, but it gives all members an incentive for success. 

People cannot be confined to their room, they are not prisoners, and without social outlets, alternative places, or funds. People without homes have no place to go but the streets. Removing people from sight does not resolve the problem.

Some thoughts for solutions:

  • Cab Meetings at every location to keep a watchful eye on the shelter’s management and keep communication streamline
  • Focus the management’s security in the right areas, and the right times
    • Uniforms to identify shelter staff
    • Schedule of security
  • Point of contact:
  • Point of contact best practices could include decimating information to public to let them know particular problems are being attended too
  • Added street outreach*
  • Review types of social distancing space can be constructed indoors, can the management arrange for a social distancing gatherings?
  • Construct popup lounges in the many places which are empty
  • Community gatherings in the parks away from the businesses, in spaces, ballrooms, community centers, etc.
  • The NYC Council, MSCC, and others were very much in favor the French styled clinics where users sit in safety and come down from their drug induced high: Boston McGinnis House has a room for such use: it’s safe for them and keeps them off the streets (possibly a popup for now)
  • For Street Homeless: Mobile showers operation provides hygiene, clothes, and laundry service; It has an opportunity to provide other services such as Ryan Chelsea’s Mobile Health Unit
    • Recently the Doctor’s Without Borders closed in midtown, they have turned over their Harlem location to Shower Power
    • They were caring for 50-60 people a day.
  • Bring back the beat cops for presence, social workers are called when problems are called
  • Thrive NYC was well funded and may be able to provide services
  • Partnering with the housing groups for education and encourage involvement
  • Investigate work force development groups, bring several to the table regularly (this is a tough during COVID)
  • Assign community groups: Community Court’s programs for formerly incarcerated, Wellness or similar
  • Regular Social Service Providers’ meeting with a mission to develop options of opportunity, productivity, and activity to replace the sedentary street activity; a think tank??, perhaps an auxiliary committee to the Homeless and housing meeting
  • Oversight to make sure clients are being cared for (only so much you can do without housing inventory)
    • Introduce them to housing proponents and workshops
    • Introduce housing proponents to people who are sheltered

This pandemic is an open invite for disaster capitalism. The larger real estate owners are buying up other properties. The core needs are clear, Supportive, affordable,  and medical respite housing. The core problem is the imbalance of our neighborhoods, it’s over commercialized and design to drain wealth from our economy and leave people behind.

We have a great deal of hotels within midtown, this could be an opportunity for a social revolution. As much funding we’re providing for hotel operators (3,500 to 6,000?), it would be better to put it toward medical respite facility, and permanent affordable and supportive, housing. 

Warmest Regards,

John Mudd, President

Sharon Jasprizza, Community Service Director

Midtown South Community Council

www.midtownsouthcc.org

917-520-3009 cell

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead 

July 3, 2020

ADDITIONAL MEETING NOTES FROM JULY 2, 2020

Shelter management: Needed info:

[The following information can be updated during CAB meetings regularly]

  • Staff
  • Makeup per shift
  • CW
  • RA
  • Security
  • Other
  • Security rounds include what and when
  • Patrol how far 
  • Ensure compliance/Oversight
  • Security wear anything specific while patrolling
  • Clients:
  • Capacity
  • Census
  • Outside area for smoking etc
  • Services they have onsite 
  • Needs being met
  • BVSJ: QR Codes for oversight. Social Services inhouse. Most staff do perimeter checks. Staff does outside perimeter checks. Different atmosphere. HIs view is that there is a concentration of shelter residents. 
  • NAICA: Mabel Calderon. Social Services. Going to look into QR Codes. They perimeter the block. 
    • For Residents: Name and contact for issues/concerns: NAICA Ricardo Cosme Ruiz Director Intergovernmental and Community Affairs 929-502-9456; Email for issues: Rcosme@naicany.org
  • ICL: Janine MH and Gen Pop West 29th; 2 on West 37th. 

Other Notes:

Changes: Anything you have been made aware of and addressed

  • CB5 and CB6 inundated with shelters INV this!
  • Short term? Police cars stationed? Can relocate residents b/c shelter
  • Long term? Need to reduce numbers. Relocate
  • Scaffolding
  • 2 per room min
  • moved 1000 per week from congregate to hotels, seniors first
  • cb4/5 have the most
  • heat – alcohol and drug
  • model budget
  • 36th nail salon