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Brighton Beach eccentric offers furniture, booze for the homeless

Homeless get alfresco living room

All the luxuries of home, without the home!: Council candidate Chaim Deutsch was campaigning on Friday when he stumbled upon this open-air living room on Brighton Sixth Street, where locals say bums have been holding outrageous late-night revelries.
Brooklyn Daily

Not every living room requires a room.

A kind-hearted, if misguided, local has been providing unconventional assistance to the bums of Brighton Beach, buying them booze and raiding people’s garbage to create a street-side living room, complete with sofa, table, carpet, and even a flowerpot.

“[On Thursday] they were drinking right out on Brighton Sixth Street,” said Yelena Makhnim, executive director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District. “They practically have a whole living room out there.”

Makhnim says the unlikely housing solution is the pet project of a local eccentric, Constance Von Rege. She is notorious for soliciting donations on behalf of the homeless, and then providing them with liberal doses of “grandma’s cough medicine.”

“She tells everyone she’s helping the homeless,” said Makhnim. “But the way she’s helping them is she asks for donations and spends it on Smirnoff.”

Homeless revelries on the streets of Brighton aren’t unheard of, especially during the warm seasons, but the living room between the Red Envelope Gift Shop and Brighton Cosmetics and Perfumes near Brighton Beach Avenue and Brightwater Court is a relatively new development.

Alex Freeman, who works at the nearby cosmetics boutique, said he knows the outdoor decorator as a nearby renter. He saw her chasing after a garbage truck to grab cushions for the couch, which has been outside his shop for a week.

“She saw the couch out on the street, but the garbage truck got there first,” Freeman recounted. “So, she chased after it.”

The Brighton Sixth Street living room has been growing ever since, and new furniture additions have been appearing almost daily.

“They have a chair, a couch, a night stand, and it keeps getting bigger,” said Makhnim.

And Von Rege hasn’t neglected the little things.

“They even have flowers” Makhnim added.

Chaim Deutsch stumbled across the odd arrangement while campaigning for city council. He didn’t quite know what to make of the surreal outdoor lounge.

“I’ve knocked on a lot of doors throughout this campaign, but that was a first,” he said.

The council candidate reached out to Makhnim, who gave Deutsch the lowdown on the open-air living room and the outrageous late-night revelries being held there. He’s been working with the Business Improvement District to find a solution to what locals are calling a serious quality-of-life issue.

The police have visited the location several times and asked the merrymakers to mosey on elsewhere. However, the cops aren’t about to take out the trash. They say it is sanitation’s job to throw out the furniture, said Makhnim.

Meanwhile, to the chagrin and amazement of everyone nearby, the bums keep coming back every night to the comfort of their alfresco accommodations.

“This is one of the craziest things I’ve seen,” said Makhnim. “Not the craziest, because I’ve seen some craziness, but it’s up there.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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Reader Feedback

Tim Fasano from Brighton Beach says:
Constance is a saint.
Oct. 3, 3:53 pm

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