In 2005, GPBA President Arlene Harrison and her son Timothy Cohen, then Program Director of the 23rd Street Association, mobilized the neighborhood opposition that led to the defeat of an NYC Department of Homeless Services plan for a Men's Shelter at the Armory located at 68 Lexington Ave (25th St).
The community vigorously opposed the shelter, which was to house level 3 (most serious) sex offenders, ex-convicts, substance abusers, most coming out of the Rikers Prison system. The shelter would have brought in approximately 20,000 clients a year for assessment.
Harrison and Cohen led an intense campaign, posting 22,000 flyers and sending hundreds of e-mails and letters to stop the plan.
"This was never about the homeless; it was always a public safety issue," said Harrison. "There are 12 schools within six blocks of the Armory, as well as Madison Square Park and several smaller parks where children play," she added.
"We put everything aside for this," said Cohen. "Our day revolves about building a stronger and safer community. We were concerned for people and students in the neighborhood. The students were fearful for their safety and well-being, and parents feared for their children."
"Our community has more than its fair share of social service facilities. Many of those we actively supported were planned with the direct input of the community. In this case however, we were faced with an arrogant city agency which thought it could railroad an inappropriate, ill-conceived plan into the heart of this residential community, without any notice to the community leaders, police, community boards, elected officials and the residents it would affect," Harrison added.
New York Resident - "Gramercy Park community defeats Armory men's shelter plan" 10/24/05
Town & Village - Arlene Harrison letter to the Editor "When East Siders stick together, we win" 10/27/05
amNew York - "Men's homless shelter plan rejected for armory" 10/20/04
The Villager - "Gramercy residents defeat men's shelter at armory" 11/1/2005
New York Post - "Gramercy Park shelter nixed" 10/19/05
The New York Sun - "Plan to Move Homeless Shelter Stymied" 10/19/05
Town & Village - "Men's shelter will not move to 25th: Residents concerned over sex offenders" 10/20/2005