BY JENNIFER ROBACK | MANAGING EDITOR
BROOKLYN NY: Recently, students at the LIU Brooklyn campus have been verbally threatened by the alarming rise in homeless people surrounding campus.
Student-athletes on the LIU Softball team recall at least two scary encounters with the homeless surrounding DeKalb Avenue, just footsteps from campus.
On Saturday February 20, a homeless man started to approach a group of them after coming back from Starbucks on Flatbush Avenue. The group included senior Victoria Lowe, senior Alina Castillo and junior Camryn Lyman.
According to Lowe, as he got closer, he started screaming a variety of offensive, violent, and other derogatory remarks. After they attempted to walk away he continued to follow them across the street while continuing to call them horrible names and threatening to punch them in the face.
“It was scary,” Lowe said. After she was able to safely get into the Dekalb Avenue turnstile onto campus, the man stopped Castillo from entering.
“I tapped my card to get through the gate but when I went to walk through, the man stopped the gate from going all the way and locked me out,” Castillo said, “Because of COVID, the campus only lets you tap once to get on campus, since the gate had locked again my card was locked and I was stuck in the gate.”
After Castillo was locked out, she pulled her phone out to call the police, the man then proceeds to smack her phone out of her hand onto the sidewalk to stop her from doing so.
“After he did that, he started to run but then stopped in the middle of the street and continued threatening us, calling me a ‘b**c*’ and saying that if we took pictures he was going to smash my phone and break it.” Lowe was able to capture the incident on video without harm.
“There wasn't much I could do after I was through the gate so I wanted to record what was happening so there was proof that this happened and in hopes that something can be done about it,” Lowe said.
Following the altercation, Castillo, Lowe and Lyman immediately went to Public Safety on campus to file a report.
“It kind of seemed like they [security] didn't take it as seriously until we showed them the video," said Lyman. "I asked if there was anything the school could do since it was right outside and they said because it’s a public sidewalk, it was hard for them to do anything.”
In regards to students concerns about the situation, Michael Fevola, University Director of Public Safety, assures that they are doing everything they can for students safety. For students concerned with leaving campus, they can request an escort to and from off-campus housing as well as neighboring subway stations.
"The Department of Public Safety is collaborating with the NYC Homeless Outreach Department and the Community Affairs Office of the 88th precinct on a regular basis to address any concerns. The NYC Homeless Outreach has visited the surrounding area several times to monitor the health and safety of the homeless individuals and provide essential services such as shelter and meals," Fevola said. "The safety of our students and community remains our number one priority."
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, for New Yorkers, the number of those who are homeless sleeping in shelters is 42% higher today than it was ten years ago. the number of homeless As of March 8, according to the Department of Homeless Services, there were a total of 51,881 adults and children in shelters all throughout NYC, however, that does not include those who live on the streets.
Since last semester the homeless population residing on Dekalb Avenue has visibly increased. While there used to be one or two people set up against the former Applebee’s building, there are now at least five. To make matters worse, three of which have started to call the sidewalk in front of LIU’s Metcalf building their (hopefully temporary) home.
Unfortunately, this has not be the only incident students have experienced. The day following the first incident, another one with a different man happened to the team. This incident again involved Lowe, and fellow seniors Kiana Cisneros and Ryleigh Bermea.
While walking back from the same Starbucks, a man walked by the group and then proceeded to hit Cisneros with a paper grocery bag, causing the bag to fall on the ground and break what the girls think was a bottle inside of the bag.
“When the bottles broke, he started yelling saying that I had to pay for it,” Cisneros said. “We tried walking away when he started to yell rude remarks at us and then started to chase me which is when I ran into the garage to get Public Safety. The man then proceeded to follow the girls back to their bus, which was waiting for them to go to a practice.
A security guard posted in the parking garage went over to try and handle the situation along with a bystander. “The guy off the street who stepped in was a big help in diffusing the situation before it turned into something bigger,” said LIU Softball senior Patricia Griffin, who was trying to get on the bus.
“It was a scary situation, I didn’t know what this guy was going to do,” said Griffin. “He tried following us onto the bus but luckily the bus driver stepped in to protected us to the best of his ability and was able to shut the door to prevent him from getting on the bus.”
Along with fellow teammate Castillo, Cisneros also filed a report with Public Safety about the incident.
“My teammates and I feel unsafe walking outside of school grounds,” Cisneros said. “This is the second time in two days that my team has been attacked by the homeless people surrounding the school. I feel like there should be more security to help keep us safe so incidents like this don’t happen again.”
Disclaimer: This story is not meant to assume all of the homeless population surrounding campus is violent, it is meant to provide students with information regarding what is going on around campus and caution them to be careful when entering school grounds.