Tag Archives: Pan Am

City Comptroller says no to Pan Am homeless shelter proposal once again


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Updated 3:38 p.m.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer stood his ground on Thursday and sent the resubmitted proposal to convert the former Pan American Hotel into a permanent homeless shelter back to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

Stringer’s response comes after DHS resubmitted their application on June 12. The initial proposal was originally rejected by Stringer’s office in May due to health and safety concerns such as fire code violations, rodent infestation and lack of kitchen facilities in the units.

The city comptroller had until the following week to accept or reject the proposal, and he decided to continue to urge the agency to make the changes he first asked to be made before they could be considered for approval.

“The Department of Homeless Services has not yet provided sufficient documentation to show that the Pan American Hotel facility is safe, and that all outstanding violations and complaints have been corrected. As a result I have sent the contract back to allow the agency additional time to address the outstanding issues we identified,” Stringer said.

Stringer’s decision comes two days after local elected officials stood with residents and community activists calling on the rejection of the resubmitted proposal.

The emergency homeless shelter at the former hotel on Queens Boulevard was supposed to close last December, yet even after facing large opposition from community members, an application was submitted to convert it into a permanent shelter under a five-year, $42 million contract with DHS.

State Senators Tony Avella and Jeff Klein, who held the rally Tuesday, praised Stringer for his decision.

“Today, the voices of homeless families and the community as a whole have been heard. While I thank the comptroller for his leadership on this issue, our work is not yet done. We must continue to work to fix this broken system,” Avella said. “I urge the Assembly to pass companion legislation to Senator Klein’s bill to protect our neighborhoods going forward. We must ensure that our communities have a stage on which to raise their voices against future Pan Am sites.”

Klein’s bill, which would require the city’s Planning Commission to hold a public community forum before the approval, modification or rejection of a homeless shelter site, recently passed in the state Senate.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, who has voiced her opposition to the shelter before, joined numerous other elected officials who applauded Stringer’s decision. Stavisky suggested that the DHS use this time to “search for other sites around the city as well as more permanent housing for families.”

“I want to thank New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer for carefully considering the troubling conditions at the Pan American Hotel and reaching the same conclusion that I have — that the Pan Am facility is not safely serving the families being housed at that shelter,” Stavisky said. “Rejecting this contract is in the best interest of everyone. The Pan Am is far too cramped and lacks basic amenities, such as kitchens, which all families, especially those with babies and young children, desperately need and that are required by the city’s administrative code.”

Local grassroots organization Elmhurst United, which has been against the proposed homeless shelter since day one, also thanked Stringer for his decision and ask DHS to stop resubmitting their proposal.

“Samaritan Village and DHS should cease resubmitting this contract as the Pan Am shelter is too costly to upgrade in order to comply with state and local laws, in particular, providing a cooking facility in each living unit and a childcare facility at this site,” said Jennifer Chu, president of Elmhurst United.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Pan Am Hotel homeless shelter infested with vermin: report


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Residents at the emergency homeless shelter located at the former Pan American Hotel are being visited by unwanted guests that have been munching on trash left piled up behind the site, according to a published report.

Members of the community surrounding the homeless shelter, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., captured a pack of rats in the act of looking through the garbage for a meal on April 17, according to the NY Daily News.

Business owners and local residents reportedly say that the garbage, which at first was being put inside a dumpster, has since been piled up in the lot behind the hotel.

Along with the reports of the rats, residents of the homeless shelter said they have issues with cockroaches inside their apartments, which in some cases hold four to five people, the Daily News said.

The former Elmhurst hotel houses over 700 residents, made up of families, many of which have small children.


The city had previously been seeking approval for a five-year, $42 million contract with the nonprofit Samaritan Village Inc. to operate the location as a permanent shelter.

Officials from the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) told the Daily News that as of April 18, Samaritan Village “has been working with the community and is purchasing a garbage compactor that will address these garbage concerns.”

“We are currently working with Department of Sanitation (DSNY), which has provided the specs for the compactor and will provide containers with lids. The garbage will then be compacted. We hope to have this remedied as soon as possible,” the DHS said.

In the past, 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.

Last November, the grassroots organization Elmhurst United, which has been voicing its opposition to the shelter since day one, said the conditions at the site violate city laws.

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.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Spotlight on justice: Judge Margaret Parisi-McGowan, Queens County Family Court


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

After working for Pan Am airlines for 16 years, Judge Margaret Parisi-McGowan knew that law was the field where she would truly soar.

“It was always in the back of my mind wanting to do it,” she said.

Parisi-McGowan was surrounded by the law from an early age, with both her grandfather and father working as attorneys for many years.

Although she made the decision to work at Pan Am, Parisi-McGowan wanted to do more. Her 16 years at the company as a union representative handling arbitrations put her in constant contact with the law, though she did not take the plunge until later.

She eventually decided to pursue her dream. She was in the second graduating class in the City University of New York’s School of Law in 1987.

In 1990, she began practicing as a court attorney and later decided she wanted to become a judge. In 1998, she was appointed as a housing court judge in the Queens County Civil Court, where she dealt with numerous family issues. That led her to want to become a family court judge.

“The issues that arose in housing court were very similar to family court,” she said. “It was all very connected to family.”
During her time in law school, Parisi-McGowan took a number of family law courses and interned at Advocates for Children Rights.

In 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Parisi-McGowan judge for the Queens County Family Court.

“You save a lot of kids’ lives and turn families around,” she said. “Sometimes it’s sad and emotionally draining, but it’s rewarding because you turn around a lot of families.”

Her term as a family court judge ends in 2015, but Parisi-McGowan hopes to continue serving as a judge and helping as many families as she can.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES