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Plans for emergency migrant shelter on Superfund site in Brooklyn face some pushback

Reaction mixed to plans for Brooklyn emergency migrant shelter
Reaction mixed to plans for Brooklyn emergency migrant shelter 02:17

NEW YORK -- There's pushback over an emergency migrant shelter the city wants to open in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

The problem? Its size and the fact it's on a Superfund site. But many residents told CBS New York's Kristie Keleshian they are in support of it.

The building at 130 Third St., right along the Gowanus Canal, is a former brewery. It has work permits on the door with the city ready to make way for an emergency shelter housing 400 recently arrived single adults. Also nearby are flyers advertising a town hall meeting about it.

"If you ask, the majority of people, they might support it, but the people who are actually going to meetings, or have the time to organize the meetings, they are the ones who are more vocal about it. And they are the ones who might be rejecting it," Brooklyn resident Evan Agovino said.

The Third Street Block Association is hosting the meeting. It listed points of discussion on the flyer, like if the shelter is even capable of caring for 400 people. Block Association President Robert Mesnard spoke with Keleshian on the phone.

"Third Street supports shelters ... We believe that the resident shelter needs to be decreased in size with the number of residents, and also the land under the shelter needs to be tested in order to see if there are toxins there," he said.

The city confirms it's reviewing a lawsuit now against the plan, citing the environmental concerns in the Gowanus Canal area. The Environmental Protect Agency describes the canal as "heavily contaminated" from old factories and listed it on its national priorities list in March 2010. It said cleanup efforts were slated to continue through 2023.

"If you look, it seems like there's quite a lot of things being built in the Gowanus Canal, so it seems like there's not a ton of environmental concern with those," Agovino said.

The city's Department of Social Services says Bhrags Home Care Corp. will be providing wraparound services and case management for residents. It says with more than 178,000 migrants in the city now, "additional capacity is desperately needed" and that the shelter system is "well past its breaking point."

"Obviously nobody should live in a toxic shelter, but to the extent that it could be used as a pretext to keep people from having a home, I think that's pretty awful," Brooklyn resident Sarah Saadoun said.

The Block Association's meeting on this will be held Monday, March 4 at 6 p.m. The association says the DSS, Department of Homeless Services, Bhrags Home Carp Corp and Councilmember Shahana Hanif will also be at the meeting.

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