Westway, No Way!
Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., state Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, United Community Civic Association President Rose Marie Poveromo and Astoria Homeowners Civic President Rudy Sarchese are strongly opposing a proposal to transform the Westway Motor Inn currently used as a temporary overnight facility for homeless families into a full-time shelter.
“Once and for all, the city must realize that this community of one and two-family homes can’t sustain the strain of a full-time homeless shelter. It has always been my position that we need to be responsible for our homeless population, but not at the expense of homeowners,” said Vallone. “We have endured the current terms, but under no circumstances will we allow a full-time shelter.”
Earlier last month, Community Board 1 received notification from a nonprofit organization that submitted an application to the Department of Homeless Services to provide accommodations and services for 120 homeless families.
Gianaris said, “The Westway Motel is not an appropriate location for a shelter of this kind. While I support efforts to help the homeless, locating this shelter in a neighborhood full of families with young children would be detrimental not only for the community but also for those utilizing the shelter, as there is no convenient access to public transportation and other necessary services and amenities.”
Since 2006, DHS has used the Westway as a temporary shelter for homeless single adults and families. During its tenure as a homeless facility, the Westway has long been the subject of complaints, ranging from car and home break-ins to prostitution, from residents living in the surrounding area.
“Our city has a responsibility to care for our homeless population in a compassionate, humane way,” Simotas said. “Placing over a hundred homeless families in a residential community without sufficient access to transportation, grocery stores and other amenities does a disservice not only to those individuals, but to our local residents as well.”
In a series of letters and public comments, Vallone has explained that the surrounding community, which consists of one and two-family homes and has no commercial area, cannot accommodate the needs of homeless individuals transported to the Westway.
In 2007, Vallone helped broker an agreement to transition the property from a long-term shelter to an overnight accommodation for families, providing the neighborhood with much relief.