The Real Deal New York

Advocates want homeless to occupy city’s 3,500 vacant buildings

January 26, 2012 10:00AM

While the city’s tumbling vacancy rate grabs the headlines, there are still enough completely empty buildings in the five boroughs to house the city’s entire 40,000-person homeless shelter count, according to a report to be released by advocacy group Picture the Homeless and the Center for Community Planning & Development at Hunter College.

Citing the report, the New York Daily News reported that more than 3,500 abandoned buildings, which could house hundreds of thousands of people, dot the city, while an additional 2,400 vacant lots are scattered across the boroughs. They could better serve as community gardens, according to the report.

Many of the vacant building and lots are located in Harlem, the South Bronx, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Far Rockaway.

Picture the Homless is urging the city to use taxpayer dollars to spruce up those buildings for homeless New Yorkers, rather than spend it on homeless shelters. The city has already launched a similar program that places low-income families in foreclosed homes.

But officials pointed it out that the city can not control privately held buildings, and argued that it has already financed the preservation of more than 83,000 units since Mayor Bloomberg made it a priority in 2004. [NYDN]