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Drop-In Center Dropped On Neighborhood

The Turtle Bay Association, while recognizing the fine work that Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services has done at its former quarters on 44th Street, cannot support its proposed relocation to 302 East 45th Street - a residential block with a pre-school facility. TBA would support Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services' relocation to a site close to, or within Grand Central Terminal.

- Resolution Passed by Turtle Bay
Association Board, June 4, 2001

In an ideal world, where city buildings and blocks could be dismantled, reconfigured and moved as easily as the pieces in a LEGO® set, finding a new home for a drop-in center for the homeless would be easy. Regrettably, in the real world of which Turtle Bay is a part, arriving at a location that meets the needs of all the issue's constituents - and provides a solution to one of today's most difficult social problems - is a far more complicated process.

Grand Central Neighborhood Social Services is looking for a new home for their center, and they think they've found one: 302 East 45th Street at Second Avenue. The Turtle Bay Association does not agree. The center has quietly occupied the top two floors of 302 East 45th Street, using them as offices. No prior notice of this action or the pending move of the center itself was given to the community by the City, the Center, St. Agnes Church, or the Grand Central Partnership.

From 1989-1999 this Drop-In Center for the Homeless operated out of the St. Agnes High School for Boys on East 44th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, an ideal location for a service of this sort. This property was mid-town, in a predominantly retail/commercial/office setting, and near Grand Central Terminal, making access extremely convenient for those who needed to use the Center's services. That building was sold and demolished two years ago to make way for a new 45-story luxury apartment building. The parties to this multi-million dollar real estate transaction - St. Agnes Church and the developer - could have taken steps to assist Grand Central Neighborhood in either designing the new apartment house in such as way as to provide space for the Center, or in locating a truly suitable new facility in the same general area. Unfortunately, this did not happen. By the same token, the Grand Central Business Improvement District could have assisted in locating a new facility as well, but instead chose to "export" the Center beyond the BID boundaries.

Now essentially homeless itself, the Center moved to a temporary location at 147 East 43rd Street, where it serves a reduced number of people each month in a facility only about forty percent of the previous square footage. Several sites have been considered potential new homes over the past two years, but, for one reason or another, all of them eventually proved unworkable. Grand Central Neighborhood today considers 302 East 45th to be very well suited to their needs, especially since they state that it is only 600 feet from their current site. In fact, 302 E. 45th Street is over 1,200 feet removed from the original site, and more than 1,500 feet from Grand Central Terminal.

The proposal is to convert the building that currently houses Alonzo's Restaurant on one floor. (The restaurant itself only rents, and will have to be relocated to another site, or, more likely, go out of business.) Drawbacks to this location are that this is a predominantly residential rather than a commercial neighborhood, transportation for those using the facility is many blocks away, and a pre-school facility is located on the same block. There is already extremely heavy foot traffic in this area caused by the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the U.N., as well as frequent interruptions, disturbances, and concerns over security because of the growing number of U.N.-associated activities, demonstrations, and marches. Adding 200 people a day to the mix in this same small area is asking a lot of its residents.

The city needs services for the homeless, and the homeless most definitely need our help. Turtle Bay now has within its boundaries the New Providence Center, just a block away from the proposed drop-in Center.
We recognize our responsibility to the people these facilities serve and are willing to have them all as part of our community. Nonetheless, we believe that in this particular case, another location in the immediate vicinity of Grand Central Terminal would appear to be much more likely to meet the needs of both those who will use the Center and the community in which it will reside.

The TBA will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this proposal. If you have concerns, comments or questions about this issue, you may call or write those listed below. Please send a copy of any letters to the TBA office as well at 224 E. 47th Street, New York, NY 10017.

City Council Member Eva Moskowitz
370 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Manhattan Borough President
C. Virginia Fields
Municipal Building, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10007

U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney
1651 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10128

State Senator Roy M. Goodman
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Assemblyman John Ravitz
251 East 77th Street
New York, NY 10021

Community Board #6
866 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017


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The Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community organization.

224 East 47th Street, New York City 10017
(212) 751-5465
Fax (212) 751-4941


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