A NY1 investigation into the city's homeless shelter system shows that it is wracked with complaints about domestic violence. A review of 1,700 incident reports from the city's Department of Homeless Services shows that safety is a major concern at the more than 600 shelters across the five boroughs with domestic violence at the top of the list. Courtney Gross has more in the second part of her week-long series: Unsafe Haven.
For several hours on Friday, a woman and her two children were held in their hotel room here by her boyfriend. He was allegedly wielding a machete and threatened to kill them.
This incident did not occur at just any hotel. The woman was placed here by the city's Department of Homeless Services.
And this hotel is being partially used as a homeless shelter.
"I have been noticing a lot of stuff that's been happening in these motels and stuff, but I try to stick to myself and mind my own business," said one neighbor.
It is unclear how Malik Pinnock, the accused assailant, got into the hotel. Three machetes were recovered at the scene. He is now on Rikers Island and facing 25 years in prison.
City Hall has called this incident quote "deeply disturbing." The woman had no domestic violence complaint before. There were also two security guards on site. The NYPD is reviewing security at all homeless shelters now.
But the incident comes a month after Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to beef up security at hotels that have been converted to homeless shelters. That promise came after a woman and two of her children were murdered by her boyfriend at this Ramada Inn turned homeless shelter on Staten Island.
These incidents are not isolated. They are part of the pervasive problem of domestic violence at city homeless shelters.
We reviewed 416 domestic violence incidents at shelters from 2015 — documents we received through the freedom of information law.
The records reveal that being choked, bruised, beaten or slammed is common practice, where women fear the person sleeping next to them could lead to their demise.
On a late February afternoon last year at this Queens shelter a woman described her husband dragging her off of the bunk bed, throwing her to the floor and repeatedly slamming her on the ground.
At another shelter in the Bronx, one woman stabbed her partner with a pair of scissors. The report says it's unclear why it happened, other than he was choking her first. The children witnessed the incident.
Elsewhere, one woman described how after she declined to have sex with her partner, because they were "arguing," he then slammed her head into the wall near where her daughter was sleeping.
"We're providing additional resources in the executive budget to address domestic violence as it develops within families that are placed together in the shelter system," said Commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration Steven Banks. "We want to ensure people are safe and families can remain together."
In their own defense, de Blasio administration officials are blaming former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It was during his tenure, that officials cut a program that put domestic violence social workers in shelters.
City Hall is restarting it and retraining homeless shelter staff to better deal with these incidents before they claim any more victims.
City Hall says it's now owning this problem. The de Blasio administration is taking steps to start this new domestic violence problem immediately.