City Turning East Williamsburg Hostel Into Homeless Shelter


Not to say we told you so, but we did.

New York Loft Hostel, a four-story hotel at 249 Varet Street in the trendy neighborhood of East Williamsburg, is being converted into a homeless shelter, indicative of a trend that Commercial Observer identified in a June story. The facility’s change of use comes a mere three months after it was revealed that BKLYN House, a new hotel at 9 Beaver Street in neighboring Bushwick, was being used as temporary housing for the homeless.

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Local newsite Bushwick Daily first reported the conversion of New York Loft Hostel yesterday, and a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Homeless Services confirmed the news to CO. Project Renewal, an $82 million housing nonprofit, will provide services for the 140 single adult men, 55 and older, who will reside in the shelter.

“The Department of Homeless Services held a July 11 meeting, to which the community board was invited, to notify local elected officials and homeowners,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We are committed to working with and listening to community members as we do the important work of sheltering and providing services to homeless New Yorkers.”

CO’s recent story revealed that a bloated supply of hotels coming online in Queens and Brooklyn would result in hotels being converted into homeless shelters. Queens and Brooklyn have 48 and 28 new lodging facilities under development, respectively, according to hospitality analytics firm STR. The development boom will result in an additional 9,505 rooms in the coming years, which is unsettling when Brooklyn in particular has seen a revenue per available room drop to $112.85 in May from $117.04 a year prior. Occupancy in the borough also fell to 70.8 percent from 75.1 percent over the same time period. Meanwhile, as of June, there were 60,042 homeless people across New York City, the highest level since the Great Depression in the 1930s, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

New York Loft Hostellocated one block away from beloved pizzeria and Italian eatery Roberta’sis on the cusp of the East Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods, which have been experiencing increasing gentrification over the last few years. As of June, the average monthly rents for studio apartments in Williamsburg and Bushwick were $3,041 and $1,943, respectively, according to a report from residential brokerage MNS. In Bushwick alone, which is farther from Manhattan along the L subway line, the overall average residential rents increased by 5.4 percent in the last year.

Residents at the homeless shelter are expected to stay for an average of nine months, which is the system-wide average for single men according to DHS. The men will be provided with three meals a day, which will be subject to NYC Food Standards, and a 10 p.m. curfew will be enforced (with the exception of clients who are employed with late work hours). Additionally, case management, medical and psychiatric services, substance use treatment and recreational activities will be available.

No sex offenders will be housed at the site, which is less than one block away from Williamsburg Charter High School.

An employee at New York Loft Hostel told CO that the hotel would not be commenting on the conversion, but the Bushwick Daily reported that an anonymous worker at the hotel said that New York State had shown interest in purchasing the building. The last time the former industrial loft building changed hands was in June 2006 for $2.5 million, according to city records.

A spokesman for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who serves New York’s 7th District, told CO: “The Congresswoman is carefully following and concerned about the proposed homeless shelter in East Williamsburg. The saturation of similar facilities in the neighborhood raises concerns for local residents and small businesses alike. The Congresswoman appreciates the City reaching out to our office but asks them to continue actively engaging the community on this and similar decisions.”

Representatives for Project Renewal and  Brooklyn Community Board 1 were not immediately available for comment.