2016-09-21 / Front Page

Blast Shelter Secrecy; DHS: ‘Maspeth Going Forward’

By Liz Goff

Three Queens lawmakers issued a joint statement to the Mayor de Blasio administration on September 14, vowing to “fiercely fight” any attempt by city officials to convert an East Elmhurst hotel into a homeless shelter.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, state Senator Jose Peralta and Assembly Member Francisco Moya issued the brief, bristling statement after officials at the city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) came clean, admitting that the agency has been housing homeless families for months, at a Holiday Inn Express hotel at 113-10 Horace Harding Expressway in Corona – without prior notice to the community. The three lawmakers blasted the administration for its secrecy, saying the number of rooms being utilized by the homeless have routinely exceeded 30 to 40 percent of the hotel’s capacity.

“Although the community is extremely sympathetic to the homelessness crisis…it is our hope that this (hotel) is not converted into a homeless shelter,” the statement read. “With five permanent homeless shelters already operating in this region in Queens, our communities have contributed more than their fair share to alleviate the homelessness crisis that we are facing in New York City. We will fiercely fight any attempt by the city to convert yet another local facility into a shelter.”

DHS spokesperson, Lauren Grey, confirmed that the agency is renting rooms at the hotel to help the city meet its legal obligation to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers. Grey said DHS currently has no plans to convert the hotel into a homeless shelter.

“But the city’s obligation to provide shelter for a rising number of homeless New Yorkers has forced us to open additional shelters and rent hotel rooms in neighborhoods throughout the city,” Grey said.

Administration officials last month admitted that the city has been renting rooms for homeless families at a Quality Inn Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Woodside for several months, with no notification to local lawmakers or the community. DHS officials said they do not plan to convert that hotel into a permanent shelter.

DHS officials said, however, that they are still eyeing a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth as a permanent shelter for adult families.
News of the planned Maspeth conversion brought loud protests by local residents and business owners who say the area is already oversaturated with shelters.

DHS officials said they are unaware that hotel owner Harshad Patel has opted out of the deal to convert the Maspeth hotel into a homeless shelter. Patel issued a statement last week saying he has cancelled plans for the conversion. DHS officials said plans are going forward for the conversion, and the shelter opening will be postponed for several weeks pending a review of the proposal.

Mayor Bill deBlasio warned opponents that he would not be intimidated by their nightly protests outside the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island homes of city officials – and even urged the Maspeth residents to protest outside Gracie Mansion.

“Intimidation and threats are not how we resolve problems in New York City,” de Blasio said.

Meanwhile, Crowley, Peralta and Moya blasted the administration for removing local communities from the shelter site selection process saying,  “A successful effort to address the pervasive issue of homelessness starts with an open dialogue between DHS, elected officials and community residents; not by forcing a neighborhood to take on additional burdens without first gathering meaningful input from those who are to be affected.”

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