Things got heated on Tuesday night in Maspeth when protesters of the proposed homeless shelter got wind of a private meeting between community members, elected officials, members of the 104th Precinct and staff from Acacia Network, the group that is planned to run the homeless shelter.
Once protesters heard of the meeting, they left their post outside of the Holiday Inn Express where they have been rallying every night for nearly two weeks and marched to O’Neill’s restaurant, where the meeting was taking place.
The meeting had ended by the time they arrived, and they were left with questions regarding the subject and what took place at what they perceived as a secret meeting.
Those in attendance at the meeting included Community Board 5 (CB 5) member Michael LoCascio, members of the 104th Precinct, state Senator Joseph Addabbo, a staffer from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley’s office and members of Acacia Network.
They were discussing safety plans for the shelter at the Holiday Inn Express, which the city wants to open on or about Oct. 1.
“It was a private meeting, yes, not a secret meeting,” Addabbo told QNS in a phone interview. “Should we not be able to stop this [shelter], we have to be prepared public safety-wise. That is one of biggest issues with shelter. You have to have that kind of discussion with the police.”
The protesters were angry that they were not notified of the meeting and what was being discussed, and many saw it as the community giving up the fight.
“We didn’t like that. It is so premature to sit down with Acacia, it’s like throwing in the towel,” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) and active protester against the shelter. “The last thing I would do as a group fighting this is to sit down with the shelter organizer. To me it was just the wrong thing to do.”
Instead of holding a private meeting, Holden feels that elected officials should have been at the daily rallies outside of the hotel and should update the community on what they are doing to stop the shelter from opening.
“As someone who has been fighting this the whole time, going to the rallies every night, I expect our electeds to be more creative and fight this. That’s what I’m most upset about it,” Holden said. “How does Addabbo go to the meeting, but doesn’t stop in by the protest? The only thing we know is that he’s meeting with the Acacia Network and that’s like a slap in the face. A lot of people see this as a battle to save their neighborhood.”
QNS reached out to Michael LoCascio, the 104th Precinct and Acacia Network for comment and is awaiting responses.