Plans to make the former Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst a permanent homeless shelter hit a roadblock Monday when City Comptroller Scott Stringer refused to sign a city contract for its operation.
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and the nonprofit group Samaritan Village previously agreed upon a five-year, $42.4 million contract formally establishing 79-00 Queens Blvd. as a permanent transitional housing shelter.
Stringer, however, sent the contract back to the mayor’s office as a result of concerns regarding conditions at the Pan American. The NY Daily News reported earlier this month that the shelter was suffering from vermin infestation. Last week, a fire also broke out in one of the units. There were no injuries reported, but the family in the affected unit was forced to relocate to another shelter.
The comptroller similarly voided a DHS contract for another shelter in Manhattan.
The comptroller vowed not to approve the contract until his office “receives assurances that anyone staying in these facilities will be safe” and “all outstanding violations and complaints have been corrected.”
“In March, the NYC Department of Investigation released a report that highlighted unacceptable living conditions in our city’s shelters and raised significant issues about how the Department of Homeless Services identifies and cures health and safety violations,” Stringer said in a statement. “We simply can and must do better on behalf of the 60,000 people, including nearly 25,000 children, who are under our care.”
The announcement came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in Corona the creation of an inter-agency shelter repair squad designed to find and correct any violations in city homeless shelters.
Stringer applauded the mayor for the announcement and added he is looking forward “to working closely with this group to meaningfully change the way the city procures and operates our homeless shelters.”