2016-10-19 / Front Page

Shelter Video Scuffle

By Liz Goff
The war between the deBlasio administration and a group of Maspeth resident protesting over a proposed homeless shelter in their neighborhood turned ugly last week, when the city unleashed a video campaign depicting the residents as hate mongers who are turning their backs on homeless New Yorkers.

The footage shows residents holding signs reading, “Dump The Dope,” with a photo of deBlasio, and protesting with whistles, megaphones and drums amid shouts outside the home of Human Resources Commissioner Steven Blank.

“I will happily shout them down,” deBlasio said. “We are going to house homeless people in the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth.”

Residents blasted the city’s campaign as “vile,” and countered saying that race has never been an issue in their battle. “Race has never been, and would never be an issue here,” a spokesperson said. “This community has already been inundated with homeless shelters, that’s all. We have done our fair share to accommodate the homeless, and we will continue to protest, five days a week, until the city reverses its course regarding this hotel. These disgusting videos do not accurately tell our side of the story.”

DeBlasio and Banks last week issued blistering statements denying media reports that the city caved to neighborhood opposition in a decision to abandon the Maspeth shelter plan.

“We have not and will not back down,” Banks said. “It was the hotel owner that determined not to make the entire building available.”

Banks said the city has instead opted to rent rooms for 30 employed, homeless men at the Holiday Inn Express. “We did not cave to neighborhood opposition,” he stressed.

Banks was responding to media coverage of a statement released by Department of Homeless Services (DHS) spokesperson Lauren Gray that said, “Due to local opposition to housing homeless New Yorkers, we have not been able to convert this site into a full shelter at this time.” 

Gray said as part of a new plan to place homeless adults in the Maspeth hotel, the city would provide onsite services for clients and increased security for the hotel and the surrounding community.

DeBlasio chastised the Maspeth residents for disturbing Banks’ neighbors with the protests, and egged them on to rally outside Gracie Mansion. “Come on over,” deBlasio said. “We will not be intimidated.”

DeBlasio issued a statement blasting media coverage of the issue. “We did not back down on sheltering the homeless in shelters in Maspeth, and we won’t back down in other neighborhoods,” deBlasio said.

The city is forking over $60 a night for each of the 30 rooms it is renting at the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express, officials said. Hotel owner Harsh Patel backed out of the city’s proposal to convert the Maspeth hotel, but has agreed to rent room at the Holiday Inn Express to the city as they become available, Banks said.

“Who’s kidding who?” an angry resident said. “Is there anyone who can’t see that the city is renting room at the Holiday Inn Express as a means to convert the hotel into a full homeless shelter?”





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