Vanderbilt Y Rents Empty Hotel Rooms to Shelter Homeless

In our last e-blast to Members, we broke the news of the Vanderbilt YMCA’s  6-month contract to rent 219 of its empty hotel rooms as shelter. At our request, Councilman Keith Powers arranged a Zoom meeting on August 17 with stakeholders, city officials and key agencies present. Many of our questions were answered by the Bowery Resource Center (BRC), the nonprofit contracted by DHS (Dept. of Homeless Services) to operate the Y shelter. We expect a followup meeting soon. 

Present at the first meeting were Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblyman Dan Quart, NYPD Det. Jeff Arlotta, representatives from CB6, the Vanderbilt Y,  BRC and the community, including FDHP, TBA, and East Midtown Partnership, a BID.

Following is the Q&A from the 8/17 meeting:

Q: Will a Community Advisory Board be created for the Vanderbilt Y’s temporary housing? 

DHS will participate in community stakeholder meetings as needed. For example, the agency has made a commitment to regroup and meet again with community stakeholders in two weeks.  Because this is site is only for short-term use, we will not have a formal CAB. 

Q: Can you describe the Vanderbilt Y’s temporary housing model?
This is a Stabilization Program, for individuals previously living unsheltered, who have been referred by a homeless outreach program. These short-term, low-threshold units are based on the Housing First model and offer a safe location for clients to live while also serving as a clinical tool to help staff build trust with clients.  

Staff engage clients through regular individual case management, focusing primarily on assessing the client, identifying and addressing barriers to housing, and completing housing applications. All services are individualized, based on ongoing assessments of each individual and their needs, with the goal of moving forward to other longer-term appropriate housing placements.

Q: What is the timeline for the temporary housing at the Vanderbilt Y? Is it possible that this contract could be renewed after 6 months?

The current contract is for 6 months, through the end of January. Contract renewal is dependent on DHS’s ongoing need for this capacity provided by BRC and for the terms of the contract to be extended by the Y.

Q: Who will be living there? How will this address individuals experiencing homelessness in the neighboring area?

Specifically these beds are for all outreach teams, including the Manhattan Outreach Consortium for individuals experiencing street homelessness. BRC has already spoken with the East Midtown BID with whom they have a contract to provide services in the area, similarly so for Breaking Ground who works with GCP BID.

Q: What services will be provided to residents?

The following services are provided to clients: Case management, with referrals off-site and via tele-health to all necessary medical services; Meals 3x/day; Regular (hourly) wellness checks by BRC staff of all rooms and client areas.

Q: Will there be a curfew? How will it be enforced?

Stabilization and safe haven programs do not have curfews; this has proven to be more effective with this group of clients. BRC uses this same policy as at another location in the community, the BRC Safe Haven at 327 East 17th Street.

Q: Will the YMCA provide a phone number for neighbors to call as there are issues that arise in the community?

BRC 1-pager (attached) has more site-specific information including the 24-hour on-site phone number 646-942-6771. The site-specific e-mail address for the community is: VanderbiltY@brc.org


Q: What security will be in place at the Y? Will the security staff be employed by BRC or DHS? Will security staff work only at the Y or also do periodic patrols on the block?

BRC has uniform security guards 24/7 at the building entrance screening everyone entering. BRC uniform staff (orange shirts) are present 24/7 at the entrance and on every floor; they are responsible for doing regular rounds inside the building and on the street. Street rounds will be on both sides of 47 between 2nd and 3rd as well as one block north and south.   

Q: What will DHS/BRC do to prevent the spread of COVID within the shelter and in the neighborhood? How will you ensure face coverings for residents? How will you ensure social distancing of residents?

Stabilization and safe haven programs do not have curfews; this has proven to be more effective with this group of clients. BRC uses this same policy as at another location in the community, the BRC Safe Haven at 327 East 17th Street.

Q: Will the YMCA provide a phone number for neighbors to call as there are issues that arise in the community?

BRC 1-pager (attached) has more site-specific information including the 24-hour on-site phone number 646-942-6771. The site-specific e-mail address for the community is: VanderbiltY@brc.org

As you may know, DSS developed a multi-pronged response for implementing City health guidance on isolation and mitigation to protect the health and safety of our City’s most vulnerable residents during this crisis. You can read more about these efforts in testimony delivered before the New York City Council on April 23, found here.  

This program is a COVID prevention program; moving people from sleeping in public where they are at risk to sleeping in private rooms; if they don’t get COVID they cannot spread COVID. BRC provides masks for all residents as often as needed. Wellness checks will be conducted around the clock and anyone who is symptomatic will be sent for testing and relocated to an isolation center elsewhere

Q: What is DHS’s process for ensuring they are in compliance with sex offender laws (SORA/SARA)?

Information About State Sex Offender Registration: The requirement that a sex offender register is separate from the residency restriction requirement. Residency restrictions are imposed by the State during the period of parole. 

New York State classifies sex crimes into three levels based on an offender’s risk of committing another sex crime and harm to the community: Level 1 (low), Level 2 (moderate), and Level 3 (high). These risk levels, as determined through a hearing at the time of an offender’s release to the community, are individualized on a case-by-case basis specific to certain facts, such that offenders convicted of the same offense may receive different risk levels. Moreover, these risk levels govern the amount and type of information which can be released as community notification and also impacts the duration of registration with the State Division of Criminal Justice Services (“DCJS”). As a general matter and based on the New York State Sex Offender Registration Act (“SORA”), Level 1 sex offenders must register for 20 years (except for certain designations), and Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders are required to be registered for life.

Information About Residency RestrictionsL Separate and apart from registration are potential restrictions on where a person can reside upon release into the community (“residency restrictions”). Importantly, a person’s status as “registered” does not mean that the person has residency restrictions—SORA does not restrict where a registered person may live. Rather, State residency restrictions are a component of the State’s Sexual Assault Reform Act (“SARA”). Under SARA, State residency restrictions are imposed as a condition of parole or conditional discharge upon persons convicted of certain enumerated sex crimes in which the victim was under the age of eighteen at the time of the offense, or, where the person has been designated a level three sex offender. Importantly, such residency restrictions are only imposed on a person during the period of his or her parole or conditional release, and not after.

Shelter Placements: The City of New York places all clients in appropriate locations in accordance with State Law – and we provide shelter to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness regardless of background. All verifiably homeless New Yorkers have a right to shelter regardless of background. This includes helping people rebuild their lives and grow through second chances as they get back on their feet. In addition to following State Law as relates to residency requirements, we also have to follow the law on providing shelter to all who are experiencing homelessness, regardless of background, since New York is under court order to provide shelter to all those who need it – and it would therefore be unlawful to discriminate against individuals based on their backgrounds or prior experiences. 

At this location, BRC will be conducting assessments of all clients before referring them to any location, to make sure they are appropriate for that location; determining whether they are a registered sex offender is part of that process

Q: What will be done to prevent negative impacts on local businesses that are already struggling during the pandemic?

BRC has established relationships and made connections with the local businesses in the area. The neighboring businesses in the area have BRC’s email addresses and contact number.

Q: Has the 17th Precinct increased patrols in the neighborhood?

Q: Will the YMCA’s programming be affected?

Due to current circumstances, we have had to review all of our programming and the impacts of COVID and the economic downturn on the way we serve our City. We have implemented a variety of virtual programs that will continue and be enhanced as the needs of our communities might grow. As it relates to youth and education programming, it is our intent to provide UPK and early childhood programs at Vanderbilt. We are also in conversation with the City to provide other funded youth programs to help support our families. We will utilize a separate entrance and maintain all existing safety protocols. Finally, on membership services, we continue to monitor State and City guidelines around health and wellness programming and hope to be able to make a determination on that front in the coming weeks. 

Q: As there currently exists a consistent street homeless issue in Dag Plaza, what is the plan to address this, in order to not compound the problem in the Plaza? Can DHS increase street outreach efforts in the area? Will street homeless people who spend time in the Plaza and/or surrounding area be eligible for the new program at the Y?

At intake all clients will review and sign BRC’s Good Neighbor Policy, which outlines their responsibility to respect the community. This includes discouraging gathering in large groups or engaging in inappropriate behavior, be it in front of the building or on the block. It also highlights the need to be respectful and considerate in open spaces and parks including Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.  BRC program staff (orange shirts) and security will conduct regularly scheduled rounds that include the block and surrounding areas. During these rounds staff and security will engage with clients who are not adhering to the Good Neighbor Policy with the objective of modifying the behavior. If the behavior is a recurring issue, BRC clinical staff and supervisors will have further engagement with the individual, and will consider this as part of their assessment of whether the client is appropriate for the program.  

In addition, BRC homeless outreach and other city contracted outreach providers will conduct targeted outreach within the area, including open spaces and parks.

DHS street outreach through our contracted providers regularly canvass areas known to be hot spots, if there is a need for an outreach team to come to a location, please call 311 so that a team can be dispatched. 

Covid 19 Park Update

DAG HAMMARSKJOLD PLAZA REMAINS OPEN with social distancing enforced. Visit the Wednesday Greenmarket and enjoy the spring parade of flowers.

For all updates on park service changes and closures, refer to the NYC Parks website: https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/health-and-safety-guide/coronavirus.
For more information and guidance about COVID-19, refer to the DOHMH website: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/coronavirus.page.

STUCK INDOORS? Explore the NYC’s diversity of parks with park rangers and tour guides, while sheltering from home. VIRTUAL TOURS AND INDOOR FITNESS AND ACTIVIIES: Get more information here: https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/parks-at-home.


DOG RUNS CLOSED: As part of the city’s ongoing effort to maintain social distancing in public spaces, as of 4/6/20, NYC Parks will be closing dog runs to the public until further notice.
ATHLETIC COURTS CLOSED. Additionally, the Mayor has directed NYC Parks to begin implementing closures of all Tennis Courts, Handball Courts, and Basketball Courts located outside of Playgrounds (which were previously closed to the public), until further notice. Any existing fences or gates around these park features will be locked, elements such as tennis nets and basketball rims will be removed, and advisory signage will be posted.
Soccer fields will continue to remain open, but will be carefully monitored. 


EARTH DAY AND ART IN THE TIME OF CORONA VIRUS

Earth Day, April 22, 2020, is more than a “feel good” celebration; the interconnections of all living things has come home to roost.  Remember the  Bee Exhibit in the park’s entrance dome and its  theme of colony collapse?  Now  global pandemics pose a threat to human survival. WE ARE THE HIVE! 

Enjoy  Earth Day with activities that raise awareness, stimulate dialogue and celebrate nature. Think global, act local. We are ALL stewards of Planet Earth. 

“Many sculpture exhibits in Hammarskjold Plaza draw on environmental themes,”  notes FDHP President Sherrill Kazan, who has sourced more than 20  sculpture artists. Working in collaboration with NYC Parks Art & Antiquities/Art in the Parks, she taps her global connections through World Council of Peoples for the United Nations (WCPUN).“I want to personally invite you to tune in at 11 am on YouTube to Art in the Time of Coronavirus for a panel discussion featuring NY Magazine Art Critic Jerry Salt, Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternack and other experts, moderated by the cultural representative for World Health Organization (WHO.) This Earth Day program is the first in a series to engage the arts and culture sector in UN global policy discussions and implementation efforts to address an ecological emergency. The one-hour discussion will be followed by a public Q&A and conclude with an invitation to join a global reading of Letters to the Earth.”

FOR FULL STORY AND PANEL INFO: Click here. 

FOR DIRECT LINK TO PROGRAM: Click here

Gorilla sculpture: Dag Plaza will have its own 800 pound  gorilla to hug. Cast in bronze by Nora Bornstein, the artist and NYC Parks Department will coordinate installation.  Meanwhile, tune into National Geographic’s Earth Day with the premiere of Jane Goodall: The Hope, a two-hour documentary that covers the vast legacy of Dr. Goodall’s decades of research and advocacy work for chimpanzees.

NYC PARKS OFFERS EARTHDAY PROGRAMS AND MORE…

Enjoy fun activities and virtual tours at home brought to you by Partnerships for Parks.  https://www.nycgovparks.org/highlights/parks-at-home.

NYC Parks reports that all  events in parks are cancelled through June 30  and no permit applications are  being reviewed until further notice. 

ARE YOU SAFE OUTDOORS? The latest research reveals that the Cover-19  virus can be infectious for several days before producing symptoms and some infected people never experience symptoms. So to protect yourself and others, practice social distancing of at least 6 ft. and wear a face mask. Covid-19 can spread between two people who are just talking in close proximity. Outdoors, the viral load dilutes and disburses so it becomes LESS contagious than in enclosed spaces like elevators and lobbies, BUT group sports and games or co-mingling are prohibited for good reason. Steer clear of joggers and anyone who is creating an airstream by huffing and puffing. 

SHOP THE GREENMARKET: Health precautions are being enforced, and six vendors continue to  offer fresh, locally sourced produce and seafood  on Wednesdays in Dag Plaza.  HELP keep Dag Plaza’s market open by observing all health guidelines. Support regional farmers and fishermen! 

DOG OWNERS ALERT: NYC Parks Department has closed dog runs because people were co-mingling. We expect  more dog walkers in Dag Plaza. Please do your part to avoid spreading secondary bacterial infections. Scoop the poop. NO excuses! 

 We all have a role to play in public health and hygiene. 

Special thanks to our volunteer gardeners who plant thousands of flower bulbs in autumn which bloom in spring and warm our hearts on Earth Day. ENJOY!  Gazing  at flowers is guaranteed to  relieve stress. 

THIS MESSAGE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY 

FRIENDS OF DAG HAMMARSKJOLD PLAZA

 When we first learned of the Covid 19 pandemic, we delayed this year’s annual appeal for membership. Now City Council grant funding for 2020 is suspended, and we must rely on private funding to sustain our work to keep Hammarskjold Plaza clean, green and healthy. Please do what you can to support our park and its Katharine Hepburn Garden. You may choose to honor and/or remember a loved one by entering text in the box provided during the online process. 

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM @friendsofdagplaza

WITH PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAURA CARVER

Holiday Tree and Menorah Lightings, Thurs. Dec. 19

Join FRIENDS for the Holiday Tree Lighting in Dag Park, Thursday, Dec. 19th, starting at 5:30 PM. Prior to the event, The Family School children and parents will light the menorah in center of park between 4:30 and 5:00 pm, then join the celebration at entrance dome on 2nd Avenue. Family School Headmistress and Friends’ VP Lesley Nan Haberman extends a warm welcome to the community to attend the menorah lighting ceremony.

The Tree Lighting celebration features the Manhattan Holiday Carolers and visits with Santa. Gotta a doggie? Dress em in holiday garb for the Pooch Parade! Kids can pose with the 7 ft Frosty snowman. Enjoy hot cocoa and cookies. Bungle up; we’ll wrap the show in one hour!

This year, Hanukkah begins at sunset on Sunday, Dec. 22 and ends Dec. 30th, while Christmas is celebrated Wednesday Dec. 25th and continues for 12 days.

Our annual tree lighting ceremony in Dag Plaza starts at 5:30 PM. Enjoy the Manhattan Holiday Carolers and if you have a doggie, dress in festive garb for the Pooch Parade. Free sweets and cocoa.

Free Puppet Show: Bessie’s Big Shot, Oct. 16

This traveling production of Bessie’s Big Shot puppet show comes to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on Wednesday, October 16 at 11 am. Kids are encouraged to follow their dreams as Bessie attempts the impossible and searches for her special talents.

Bessie the cow dreams of joining the circus. But can she lift more than Ziegfried, the strongest man in the world? Fly on the trapeze high above the crowd?

The CityParks PuppetMobile presents free performances and puppet-making workshops in neighborhood parks, recreation centers and schools throughout New York City. Performances are made possible by City Parks Foundation.

Oktoberfest at Dag Plaza, 10/12

Celebrate autumn’s beauty in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Children decorate pumpkins; the clown paints their faces and twists balloons into fantastical shapes. Kids pose as cats, spiderman and goblins amid hay bales and corn stalks. Photo ops galore. Family fun for all.

Hydrangea Fest Garden Celebration

We celebrate the summer garden when the hydrangeas bloom. Take a garden tour and learn about the 5 diffferent varieties in our collection and how to use these popular shrubs and vines  in stunning  arrangements, patio plantings and shade gardens. 

On Thursday, July 25th, 6 PM to & PM, violinist Susan Kessler will play from her extensive repertoire. Sample the new cafe menu with a  picnic plate for purchase from the Peace Garden Cafe. Free ice tea for all! 

On Friday, July 26, the tours continue and a  giant inflatable unicorn that sprays water from its horn will keep the kids cool and happy.

SEE THE PARK BULLETIN BOARDS   AND CHECK WEBSITE FREQUENTLY FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SCHEDULES. 

Sing for Hope Piano, Anyone Can Play

The Sing for Hope Piano is back for its third year at Hammarskjold Plaza, bringing music  to the park’s new cafe for a two week stint, starting July 19 and ending August 3. Anyone can play and we encourage all musicians, both professional and amateur to tickle the keys. The Sing for Hope nonprofit organization donates the pianos to schools. Artists contribute their creative expression to paint each piano with a unique design.

We need PIANO BUDDIES  to cover the piano with it’s fitted tarp  at night  and when  rain is forecast   If you can help, please contact fdhp@hammarskjoldplaza.org or leave a message at 212-826-8980. Let us know what days you are available for the two weeks ending August 3.