Tag Archives: Department of Homeless Services

Buildings Department approves revised Glendale shelter construction plans


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

While the battle over the proposed Glendale homeless shelter is far from over, the Department of Buildings (DOB) gave its blessing to the shelter’s revised blueprints.

The DOB approved on April 2 amended building plans to convert a long-defunct factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a hotel with 70 dwelling units. In March, the agency approved plans for 103 units but quickly reversed course and withheld them for further review.

Issues stemmed from the previous classification of the site as “lodging,” but the revised plans approved on April 2 describe the building as a class B hotel. This change would allow operation of a hotel as-of-right, without requiring changing the location’s manufacturing zoning, which would involve a public review process.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) previously reached a five-year, $27 million agreement with the nonprofit Samaritan Village to operate a homeless shelter for up to 125 families at the factory site. Its owner, Michael Wilner, is reportedly leasing the site to Samaritan Village and is responsible for the factory’s renovation.

While construction may take place at the shelter site, the contract itself must be approved by City Comptroller Scott Stringer before it can be used as a homeless shelter. A spokeperson for Stringer told The Courier his office has yet to receive the contract, and therefore has yet to make the decision.

Meanwhile, the fight goes on for community activists opposed to the shelter’s opening. Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said in a phone interview the advisory body would file a formal challenge of the plans with the Buildings Department. The public has until about May 11 in order to officially file a challenge with the agency.

“We will do some consultations with attorneys and try to make the best of it,” Giordano said.

The Glendale Middle Village Coalition, a group of civic and business organizations, continues to raise funds for its legal challenges to the plan.

It previously filed an Article 78 proceeding against the DHS’ environmental assessment which determined that 78-16 Cooper Ave. — used for industrial manufacturing for decades and located adjacent to a chemical storage facility — is safe for reuse as a shelter.

The coalition hopes a judge’s ruling will force the DHS to perform an environmental impact study on the site, which could cost millions and take several years to complete.

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer discusses community concerns at legislative breakfast


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The conversion of an East Elmhurst motel into a homeless shelter was one of many topics addressed by the city’s comptroller during a breakfast last week with western Queens community leaders and elected officials.

Comptroller Scott Stringer was a guest at the United Community Civic Association’s 2015 Legislative/Executive Breakfast on Feb. 6 where members voiced their concerns about air, noise and traffic pollution, unaffordable costs of residential rents, and hospital closings.

“Many of you in this room are at this meeting not just because of yourselves. You believe in New York City, and you love it like I do,” Stringer said at the breakfast. “But we’re also doing this for our children, making sure that the economy is going to fit what they have to do.”

Stringer added that the key idea is to think about the economy in 10 to 15 years and start to think about it as a high-technology economy. He also said that the economy should no longer be Manhattan-centric; instead, all the boroughs should be transformed into economic hubs.

“The government cannot just be in sound bites telling people what they want to hear,” Stringer said. “We’ve got to create a five-borough economic plan and make sure that people can access the middle class. That is how this city was built.”

Residents and community leaders at the breakfast discussed in detail the issue of dealing with the city’s Department of Homeless Services’ decision to convert the Westway Motor Inn, located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd., into a permanent homeless shelter.

Recently, the community voiced its outrage against the city’s decision to house registered sex offender James Bryant at the shelter, which is home to over 100 families with children. Bryant was removed from the shelter on Feb. 5.

Since then, the DHS has proposed changes to its policy to prevent level 2 or 3 sex offenders from being placed in shelters with families and instead referring them to shelters for single adults.

In response, Stringer said that city agencies should have a dialogue with the communities and sit down with leaders to work out issues and “respect people.”

Stringer also said he will personally go to the Westway Motor Inn, tour the facility, look at the issues brought up by community members and take suggestions on what can be done differently.

“We have to make sure the voices of our neighborhoods are heard,” Stringer added. “We will monitor, we will watch and we will speak out.”

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DHS removes sex offender living at Westway motel homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The cries of an East Elmhurst community have been heard, as a convicted sex offender has been removed from the homeless shelter at the Westway Motor Inn.

James Bryant, 49, who in 2004 was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in 2003 and faced 10 years in prison, was living at the hotel located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd.

After hearing the news that the 49-year-old was living in the same facility that is home to over 100 homeless families, local elected officials and community leaders voiced their outrage.

“We are totally outraged, not only as a community, but we are saddened for those people who have children and now have among their group a pedophile who certainly should not have been selected to go into any shelter that has any children,” Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, previously told The Courier.

By Thursday, the city’s Department of Homeless Services announced that Bryant had been removed from the shelter.

“After we applied pressure, convicted sex offender removed from Westway Hotel,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris via Twitter. “We will continue to work on other issues surrounding Westway.”

Last July, the city’s Department of Homeless Services approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn into a shelter that would be managed by social services provider Women in Need.

Residents of the surrounding neighborhood, local elected officials and community leaders were outraged they were not told or asked in advance about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“I have learned that the convicted sex offender has been removed from the premises at the Westway housing facility,” state Senator Jose Peralta said. “While I am pleased to hear this news, I remain extremely concerned by the lack of adequate policies and procedures in place at the Department of Homeless Services that would have prevented this dangerous circumstance from occurring.”

According to Councilman Costa Constantinides, the DHS has assured him they will be more sensitive when relocating individuals in the future and will be “considerate to the needs of the residential neighborhoods.”

“We will keep working to ensure that our neighborhood’s concerns are addressed in this process,” Constantinides added.

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Local pols criticize DHS decision to place sex offender at Westway motel homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Updated Thursday, Feb. 5 10:55 a.m.  

The East Elmhurst community is expressing its outrage after finding out that a registered sex offender has been moved to the homeless shelter at the Westway Motor Inn, which houses families that include young children.

James Bryant, 49, is a sexually violent offender who in 2004 was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl the year prior and faced up to ten years in state prison, according to records from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

According to the same records, Bryant has since been moved to the hotel located at 72-05 Astoria Blvd., which has served as a shelter for over 100 homeless families since last year.

“I am alarmed at the recent news that a convicted child molester has been placed at the Westway facility after we were assured that location was meant to house families with children,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “The continuing lack of information and transparency surrounding the Westway is extremely troubling and validates the community’s concerns about this location from the start.”

Photo courtesy of New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services

James Bryant (Photo courtesy of New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services)

Last July, the city’s Department of Homeless Services approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn into a shelter that would be managed by social services provider Women in Need.

“We are totally outraged, not only as a community but we are saddened for those people who have children and now have among their group a pedophile who certainly should not have been selected to go into any shelter that have any children,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association.

Initially, community members were outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“Since the shelter opened last year, the community and local elected officials have had no voice in the process. We have lacked adequate access to the shelter facilities and its management, so it came to me as a complete surprise that a violent sex offender has been permitted to live in this facility,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “The families in need who are living at the Westway deserve more than just a roof over their head – they deserve a safe place to live.”

In regards to the community concerns the DHS said in a statement: “DHS takes safety concerns very seriously and, within its legal obligation to provide shelter to anyone in need, is currently reviewing policies with regard to sex offenders in the families with children system.”

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Sen. Avella calls conditions at proposed Pan Am permanent shelter ‘horrendous’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

State Sen. Tony Avella has joined the opposition to the planned conversion of an emergency homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel into a permanent facility due to what he called “horrendous” conditions at the site.

Avella, who is chairman of the Senate’s Social Services Committee, joined residents and local leaders to speak out against the proposal to convert the shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst to a permanent facility under a $42 million contract with the city.

“It is an outrage to take an abandoned hotel, warehouse homeless families inside it, ignore shocking City Code and HPD violations, waste an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars in the process, and then award a $42 million contract to a questionable-at-best organization, making the entire situation permanent,” Avella said.

According to the senator, the shelter houses over 700 residents, made up of families of which many have small children. Each unit at the shelter holds four to five people.

Because the shelter uses former hotel rooms, they are not equipped with cooking facilities. The senator and organizations such as Elmhurst United claim this goes against a NYC Administrative Code requiring that each unit at a family shelter have a kitchen, and in order to do this, there would need to be major renovations at the site.

Photo courtesy of Sen. Tony Avella's office

Photo courtesy of Sen. Tony Avella’s office

The shelter has also had a large number of violations such as failure to provide hot water or heat for days, reports of bed bugs, peeling of lead paint in one unit, and garbage left sitting in front of the entrance to the children’s play area, according to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“As chair of the State Senate’s Social Services Committee, I understand the vital importance of addressing our growing homeless population and I am committed to working to resolve these issues,” Avella said. “However, this cannot be at the expense of homeless families and children or the community as a whole. We must look to fix this broken system, not warehouse those people that need our help most.”

Due to all these conditions, Avella said he calls on the city to reject the contract that would covert the former hotel into a permanent homeless shelter because he believes it is “not fit for long-term housing for the homeless.”

According to the city’s Department of Homeless Services, the hotel was remodeled before the agency began using it as a shelter. The building also always has hot water, yet sometimes there is a lack of pressure, and hot water has been at full capacity since Dec. 7. Additionally, there have been no problems with the heat. Bedbugs were identified in five units and are currently being treated by an extermination company, and the facility has been lead-free since July.

“We have worked swiftly with our provider to respond to all concerns in the building,” said a DHS spokesperson. “Providing adequate shelter for families in need is a priority for this administration, and it’s heartening to see the community concern about the welfare of these families – an encouraging development after unfortunate and regrettable opposition to this shelter.”

The city is wrestling with a record number of homeless people. More than 59,000 people are currently in the shelter system.

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Pan Am homeless shelter violates laws, says opponent


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

One Elmhurst grassroots organization is claiming the conditions at the proposed permanent homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel are breaking the law.

Elmhurst United, a grassroots organization that has been voicing its opposition to the homeless shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. since day one, released a statement arguing that conditions at the homeless shelter violate city laws. The statement was released after a Queens Courier report that the city is seeking approval for a $42 million contract to operate the site as a permanent shelter.

The Department of Homeless Services did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The group claims the shelter violates the NYC Administrative Code, which states, “No homeless family shelter shall be established which does not provide a bathroom, a refrigerator and cooking facilities and an adequate sleeping area within each unit within the shelter and which otherwise complies with state and local laws.”

According to the organization, the site does not have kitchens in every unit, which was why initially DHS did not consider the site to be a “permanent family shelter.”

Other conditions include “inadequate sleeping quarters” with four to five people living in a single room with bunk beds pushed up against windows, according to Elmhurst United.

“These units simply cannot be converted to be used for permanent housing with minimal structural change,” said Jennifer Chu, spokeswoman for Elmhurst United. “The Pan Am would require major renovation in order for it to lawfully meet NYC standards for Tier II homeless shelters. The Samaritan Village draft contract shows that there is no money in the line item budget to do renovations for the next 4.5 years.”

DHS is proposing a five-year, $42 million contract with Samaritan Village Inc. for the shelter at the Pan Am Hotel, The Courier previously reported.

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City seeks $42M contract for Pan Am homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Making the homeless shelter at the Pan Am Hotel permanent will inch forward next week when the city seeks approval for a $42 million contract to operate it.

The Department of Homeless Services is proposing a five-year, $42 million contract with Samaritan Village Inc. for the proposed homeless shelter at the former Pan Am Hotel in Elmhurst, according to city records.

Samaritan Village, which runs homeless facilities across the city, is also seeking to run the proposed shelter on Cooper Avenue in Glendale.

The public is invited to give feedback at a hearing on Nov. 13 at 125 Worth St. in Manhattan at 10 a.m.

The contract’s operating term will start from Dec. 6, 2014, to June 30, 2019, with an option for renewal from July 1, 2019, to June 20, 2023, for the shelter, which will be located at 79-00 Queens Blvd.

The city opened the shelter for emergency shelter at the Pan Am Hotel on June 5. Lawfully, the city can operate an emergency shelter for six months before it has to make it permanent.

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Backpacks donated to children of Pan American Hotel homeless shelter


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Daniel Dromm’s office

School-aged children living at the Boulevard Family Center in the former Pan American Hotel are all set for their first day of school.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, Queens Center and the Department of Homeless Services came together on Aug. 19 to distribute 200 backpacks, notebooks and water bottles to the children living at the homeless shelter located at 7900 Queens Blvd.

“The homeless children that moved into the former Pan Am Hotel in June are some of our newest neighbors and they need our support,” said Dromm, who believes it is appropriate to donate these backpacks to his “newest constituents.” “As a former teacher of 25 years, I know firsthand how important it is for students to come to school prepared to learn. These backpacks will help the children start the school year right.”

DHS and nonprofit Samaritan Village turned the Pan American Hotel into a homeless shelter for families in June. Since then the surrounding community has protested and rallied against the move, which happened without residents and elected officials being given prior notice.

Community members have voiced their concerns over community safety, increased in property taxes and crime, and overcrowding of nearby schools.

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Community calls homeless shelter at East Elmhurst motel an ‘abuse of power’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

East Elmhurst residents blasted city officials Wednesday for placing a homeless shelter on Astoria Boulevard without community consultation, calling the move a “covert operation reeking of disrespect.”

More than 200 neighborhood residents packed an Astoria museum’s theater to speak against the decision by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to turn the Westway Motor Inn into a permanent homeless shelter to house more than 100 homeless families.

Community members say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“It was a deliberate, furtive and covert operation reeking of disrespect of our local elected officials, community leaders and the community at large,” said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, which organized the meeting. ”We were advised after the fact and consider the action by DHS an abuse of power.”

Officials say that years ago the DHS came to the community requesting to turn the 121-room motel into a homeless shelter, but were met with opposition. At the time DHS stated it had no plans to convert the motel into a full-time facility and worked with the community on making the site only a temporary overnight shelter.

“When they came to us, we explained to them why this is the wrong place. Why there is nothing for these people to do during the day, this is a hotel on a dangerous service road,” said Peter Vallone Jr., a former councilman for the area who also worked with the DHS to come to the temporary shelter agreement. “To change that agreement you were supposed to come to the community and inform us. That never happened and that is an outrage.”

The shelter is being managed by social services provider Women In Need and currently houses a total of 67 families with 129 children, ranging from 1 to 17 years old, according to DHS representatives.

Residents who lined up to speak during the meeting, which went on for more than two hours, raised concerns over community safety, overcrowding of schools, increase in property taxes, environmental studies of the area and crime.

Antonia Papadouris, whose home driveway is adjacent to the backlot of the motel, said she has seen signs of marijuana and has found hypodermic needles on the ground. She also said that last Friday a teenager playing in the backlot pulled a knife on her father-in-law.

“I don’t feel safe in my neighborhood,” Papadouris said. “My husband wants me to take mace with me.”

However, Danny Roman, a resident of the homeless shelter, said his 15-year-old step-son, who was the one involved in the altercation, never pulled a knife. Instead, Roman said, he merely approached the man after hearing screams and having seen his step-son get injured during the fight.

“I didn’t go with any weapon. I went there humble,” said Roman, who lives at the site with his wife and four children. “I do understand. I do understand, this is a strong community. They have the right to fear…. But my kids go to bed at 8 p.m. Basically we are like in a prison.”

Lorraine Stephens, DHS first deputy commissioner, said the move was necessary because “right now we are in a crisis in New York City.” She blamed the Bloomberg administration, saying there was a “lack of planning around building the necessary capacity for shelter.”

“We were put in a situation where we have to shelter everyone that comes, that is deemed eligible for shelter,” Stephens said.“We were not looking at Westway a month, two months ago. But as of June we became in a crisis because our lack of capacity forced us to look throughout New York City and say where can we house these families?”

 

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Families at Pan American homeless shelter reportedly bused to movies during third protest


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Residents of the controversial Pan American Hotel homeless shelter were kept away from protestors during another rally against the opening of the site, according to a published report.

About 550 residents gathered Tuesday to hold another protest in front of the hotel located on Queens Boulevard and prior to the rally, the Department of Homeless Services arranged to have 230 children and adults from the shelter bused to the movies, DNAinfo reported.

The residents were taken to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” paid for by the agency at a theater in Jamaica in order to remove the children from any hatred that “potentially could be exhibited” during the July 22 rally, according to DNAinfo.

Last night’s rally is the third held by residents opposing the shelter which currently houses more than 180 families. The community has said that the hotel was turned into the shelter, by nonprofit Samaritan Village, without residents and elected officials being given prior notice.

The last protest, which coincided with Community Board 4’s meeting with the DHS and residents, was filled with hundreds of protestors shouting criticisms back and forth with shelter residents.

Two weeks ago, just a neighborhood away, DHS approved the conversion of the 121-room Westway Motor Inn in East Elmhurst into a permanent homeless shelter as well.

Community members and elected officials in that area also say they were not told or asked about the decision.

The hotel previously was used as an emergency overnight site for homeless families, but two years ago the DHS has said it would not turn the motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

An emergency town hall meeting and public protest against the East Elmhurst homeless shelter is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

 

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Emergency town hall to be held on controversial East Elmhurst homeless shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano


Community members will have their voices heard during an emergency town hall meeting on Wednesday over the city’s decision to turn an East Elmhurst motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

On July 9 , the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd., into a shelter to immediately house over 100 homeless families, according to officials. The shelter will be managed by social services provider Women In Need.

Residents, elected officials and local leaders say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

The United Community Civic Association will hold the emergency town hall meeting as well as a public protest on July 23 opposing the approved site selection.

“We have nothing against any of the groups that will be living here. The site is our concern. Only ones that will benefit from it are the owners of Westway,” Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, previously told The Queens Courier. “Nobody wants to be homeless and we understand that, but this is not the place to house them.”

Since the families have moved into the shelter, The Courier has observed Tempur-Pedic mattresses being delivered to the motel and also what looks like a recreational area being constructed in the back lot of the site.

A neighborhood resident said he has also seen portable electric kitchens being delivered to the motel.

The DHS did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

The town hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave.

 

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Stringer criticizes DHS for handling of homeless shelter placement process


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Salvatore Licata

Amid ongoing controversy over several Queens homeless shelters, the city comptroller has said the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is “failing” in the way it deals with homelessness throughout the five boroughs.

In a letter to DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, City Comptroller Scott Stringer addressed the ongoing “homelessness crisis, particularly among families” in New York City. He noted that there are different causes that contribute to the rise, however the “current playbook” in dealing with the issue needs to be changed.

“Especially concerning to my office is the emergency contracting approach that the Department of Homeless Services has employed to site new facilities in neighborhoods with minimal community consultation,” Stringer wrote in the letter on Thursday.

In one case, Glendale residents have been fighting for more than two years to stop an abandoned manufacturing plant from becoming a homeless shelter. The community complained that they were given little to no notice about the shelter.

“DHS must begin to immediately repair its relationships with local communities by creating a robust consultative process with community stakeholders for all of its currently planned sites and for those proposed in the future,” Stringer wrote. “This process should allow for meaningful input from local stakeholders, advocacy groups, and elected officials.”

In the past month, two western Queens neighborhoods have also had to deal with unannounced homeless shelters being moved into two hotels.

Hundreds of protestors spoke against the city’s initiative to house homeless families at the Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst without asking for any input from the community.

Last week, the DHS approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn on Astoria Boulevard into a shelter housing over 100 families. Residents and elected officials are outraged the agency let them know about the shelter just a day before the families began moving into it.

“If DHS continues to neglect communities until after emergency contracting decisions have been made it will neither benefit from local knowledge of the area nor engender harmonious integration with the surrounding communities,” Stringer wrote.

 

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Community opposes newly approved homeless shelter at East Elmhurst motel


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Salvatore Licata

ANGY ALTAMIRANO AND SALVATORE LICATA

A community is outraged and looking for answers as they learned the city went behind their backs to turn an East Elmhurst motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

Last week, the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) approved the conversion of the Westway Motor Inn, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd., into a shelter to immediately house over 100 homeless families, according to officials. The shelter will be managed by social services provider Women In Need.

“We are deeply troubled by this decision and find it disturbing that neither elected officials nor community leaders were informed or consulted beforehand,” a group of elected officials wrote in a letter to DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor after being told about the plan the day before the families were expected to begin moving into the motel. “While we appreciate that DHS is legally required to provide shelter for the homeless, the agency’s failure to provide any notification to the people currently living in the area who are impacted by its implementation is unacceptable.”

Community members, such as Gladys Gray, 86, who owns Donhauser Florist right next to the motel, say they are outraged they weren’t told or asked about the motel becoming a permanent shelter.

“[The motel] was once good for the community. Now I’m not sure what is going to happen to us,” said Gray, whose family has owned the flower shop for the past 125 years. “I don’t think this neighborhood can handle it.”

Gray also said that when the 121-room motel was previously used as a temporary emergency overnight shelter business dropped because “people were afraid to come around the shop.” Two years ago the DHS stated it had no plans to convert the motel into a full-time facility.

Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, which will hold an emergency town hall meeting and public protest on July 23, said she is deeply concerned about the shelter after the community allegedly had an agreement with the Bloomberg administration.

“The agreement was that the homeless people would be bused in at night and out in the morning, no permanent housing,” Poveromo said. “We have no voice, the government doesn’t follow the will of people.”

She added that the motel is not an appropriate location for a homeless shelter because there are no nearby public transportation options or stores, and the closest thing to it is a cemetery.

Elected officials also said that along with the lack of community input, they are also concerned about how the addition of more than 100 families would affect the capacity of schools and hospitals in the area which are already overcrowded.

“We have nothing against any of the groups that will be living here. The site is our concern. Only ones that will benefit from it are the owners of Westway,” Poveromo said. “Nobody wants to be homeless and we understand that, but this is not the place to house them.”

Just last month, in a neighborhood right next door, hundreds of protestors spoke against the city’s plan to house more than 200 homeless families at the Pan American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd. Residents also said they were not asked for their input regarding the shelter.

The DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

The emergency town hall meeting on the Westway Motor Inn homeless shelter will be held on Wednesday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image at 36-01 35th Ave.

 

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Elmhurst residents confront homeless families over controversial hotel shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirao

A face-to-face confrontation erupted between homeless families and protestors Monday night over a controversial shelter at an Elmhurst hotel.

After thousands gathered in front of the Pan American hotel during a June 17 protest, Community Board 4 called a meeting at the Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard on June 30 to discuss the issue of the hotel being turned into a homeless shelter without residents and elected officials given prior notice.

Outside, hundreds of protestors exchanged comments back and forth with shelter occupants yelling at them to “get out,” “get a job,” and calling them “lazy” and “bums.”

Lale West, who recently moved in to the hotel with her son, daughter and husband, said the protestors made her upset, especially seeing little children shouting and holding signs.

“I’m upset because they don’t understand what is going on,” said West, who works as a chef. “Just how they have kids, we all have kids and we’re trying to make ourselves better. It doesn’t mean we’re bums. Today you have a job and tomorrow you’ll wake up and not have one.”

Nonprofit Samaritan Village proposed the Pan American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., as a shelter to house 200 homeless people. Currently about 90 are already residing there.

“This is outrageous,” said Emmanuel Escoto, who protested outside the Elks Lodge alongside his 10–year-old daughter Jona. “If the city is so concerned for the homeless, why don’t they provide services for them? This should not be a dumping ground. It’s a shame the city isn’t doing more to help them, they are just sweeping it under the rug — our rug.”

The meeting was open to people who had pre-registered and included representatives from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Executive Vice President for Samaritan Village Douglas Apple, community board members and elected officials.

“It is our intention and our plan to work closely with you, to ensure that the program we run at the PanAm serves residents and as part of the community,” Apple said to the audience. “We are not here to add problems, we are not here to create issues.”

Residents who signed up to speak during the meeting, which went on for more than two hours, raised concerns over community safety, overcrowding of schools, increase in property taxes and crime.

“I am not against homeless people, I am not against providing support for needy folks who need it. What I am against, and I think that everyone here is in agreement with me, is the process that [Samaritan Village] took to put the shelter in our community,” said Jenny Shao, a science teacher at the International High School for Health Sciences in Elmhurst. “For you to say this is an emergency plan to put into Elmhurst, a community of immigrants who often don’t have a voice, you think you can take advantage of us.”

According to Lorraine Stephens, first deputy commissioner for DHS, the “emergency declaration” to move the families comes from a recent “crisis situation” with a large increase in homeless families.

“In New York City we have a right to shelter, what that means is that we need to make sure there are no homeless children and families on the street,” Stephens said. “Part of that is what caused this emergency declaration that we’re in right now today.”

The politicians present promised the community they would work with Samaritan Village and DHS officials in regards to the hotel.

At the end, the community board unanimously voted on a motion to have the shelter removed from the hotel, but CB 4 chair Louis Walker said the decision is just advisory.

 

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Frustrated community board members wait for more details on Glendale homeless shelter


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

JEFF STONE

Queens leaders said they are frustrated that there has been no date set for a community meeting on a controversial Glendale homeless shelter proposal.

Community board members, along with the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), said Monday they have yet to hear from Samaritan Village about when the homeless advocacy group will be ready with a presentation on the proposal to convert the abandoned manufacturing plant at 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a home for 125 families.

Politicians and Glendale residents alike have previously expressed reservations over the sudden population influx, the building’s distance from the subway and possible contamination at the site in question.

Since the DHS announced that it would support the Samaritan Village effort, though, elected officials in Queens have worried about whether the two political groups are on the same page.

“It’s a very difficult process that seems to be all too standard,” said Gary Giordano, District Manager of Community Board 5, which includes Glendale. “It’s my impression that the Department of Homeless Services is talking to the applicant long before they’re talking to either the community board or the council person in the community.”

The frustration stretches back to December of last year, when the DHS sent a letter to the mayor’s office recommending the former airplane manufacturing plant be converted into a living space for displaced New Yorkers. Along with unanimously disagreeing with the letter, board members complained about being given too little notice that meetings had been scheduled and implied that the DHS might be trying to rush through the process.

Asked if the Department of Homeless Services needed a community board’s permission to build a new shelter, Giordano said, “Their policy is that they tell the applicant that they have to reach out to the local community board and let them know what they are intending and to give the community board an opportunity to conduct a public meeting on the matter.”

DHS spokesman Christopher Miller said the agency has been trying to find a time that works for all three parties.

“We are waiting for the provider to come up with a presentation date,” he said.

Samaritan Village did not return repeated requests for comment.

How soon the tension will simmer is anyone’s guess. Mr. Giordano refused to speculate on whether anything in the to-be-scheduled presentation was likely change his mind or the minds of any other board members, although he did say a meeting could soon be slated for a weeknight in May.

“I expect them to tell us as much as possible, or as much as we can get out of them, about the specifics of what’s in their application, some of which we know and some of which we don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t heard anybody say this is a reasonable site and that this is a reasonable way to be living.”

 

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