2017-10-04 / Front Page

City Opens Another Homeless Shelter At CB2 Hotel

By Liz Goff
Controversy continues to center around the city’s decision to house homeless families with children at a former Best Western Hotel in Long Island City.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has reserved each of the 82 rooms at the former Best Western Hotel at 38-05 Hunters Point Avenue to provide emergency shelter space for homeless families, according to DHS.
The agency started moving families into the former hotel on September 26, less than one week after hotel workers were notified that their employment was being terminated.
A group of frustrated workers told the Gazette they were startled when they received a message on Tweeter on September 25, saying they had lost their jobs. The message contained a letter from Delaware-based Best Western parent company SSN Hotels, LLC that read simply, “This letter is to inform you that your employment with…Best Western will be ending on September 25, 2017. The business has been sold.” Employees said the name of the new owner was not included in the message, and no one told them how or where to direct inquiries related to their termination.
The workers tweeted a copy of the message to City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who said his staff was looking into the matter. “They gave us like no time to get another job,” a worker who gave her name as Maria said. “That’s just not right. Can we come back here to live if we can’t pay our rent because of this short notice?”
The former three-story hotel featured 82 units, most of which will eventually be used to shelter homeless families. A DHS spokesperson confirmed that he first families arrived at the new shelter on September 26.
The move flies in the face of a promise by Mayor Bill deBlasio to phase-out the use of hotels as shelters by 2021.The mayor’s plan includes replacing shelter “cluster sites” with 90 “high quality” homeless shelters located throughout the five boroughs – although it is unclear if Staten Island will see even one of the new shelters.
Cluster sites such as hotel rooms lack basic amenities like kitchens, where homeless families can store food and cook meals. The use of hotel rooms as emergency shelters is costing the city thousands of dollars each night, without addressing the real issue of how or where to house homeless families, according to a report issued by City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.
DHS officials said the agency’s first priority in transforming the shelter system is to end the use of the less effective, costly, cluster sites including the use of hotels to house the homeless. As part of that effort, DHS has closed more than 1,000 cluster sites since January 2016, DHS officials said.
The Long Island City Best Western is the third hotel in Community Board 2 to be transitioned for use by the homeless. Altogether, the three hotel sites provide shelter for some 250,000 families, according to DHS.
“Our first priority as we transform the shelter system and completely end the use of all remaining cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities is phasing out cluster units,” DHS spokesperson Isaac McGinn said in a statement released by the agency.
Hotels like the Best Western are a bridge to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers, including families with children who would otherwise be turned out into the street,”  McGinn said.
Community Board 2 officials said the city informed them on September 26 that DHS would be using the former Best Western Hotel to shelter homeless families. The notice came on the same day families started moving into the former hotel.


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