As the original opening date — Oct. 1 — for the proposed shelter at the Holiday Inn Express located at 59-40 55th Rd. in Maspeth came and went, the fate of the hotel is still unknown. What isn’t a mystery is that the hotel, located on the fringes of the neighborhood’s industrial sector, seems like an inconvenient location for the homeless persons who would live there.
Since the homeless shelter was first proposed in August, Maspeth residents and elected officials have repeatedly expounded upon the myriad reasons the Holiday Inn Express is an inappropriate location to house homeless adults.
Protesters say the rooms are not equipped with standard living facilities such as kitchens; local elected officials have filed a lawsuit against the city because shelters are required to have kitchens. City Comptroller Scott Stringer has not signed a contract allowing a shelter to operate at the hotel, there is limited public transportation or services for the homeless the shelter would be serving. The list goes on.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Homeless Services/Human Resources Administration (DHS/HRA), headed by Steven Banks, are intent on opening a homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn to help with the city’s homelessness crisis, which sees about 60,000 New Yorkers living on the streets on a daily basis, stating Queens, and specifically Community Board 5 (CB 5), must do its fair share of housing the homeless.
But is the Holiday Inn Express really the best place for a shelter? What options would residents have to get around easily or to find fresh and healthy food? Let’s examine this more closely.
Transportation would be the biggest issue for the homeless that would be living at the hotel, as the area is only serviced by two bus routes, the Q39 and the Q67.
The Q67, which runs from Long Island City to Middle Village, stops at Maurice Avenue, a short three-minute* walk away. The Q39 runs between Long Island City and Ridgewood, with the nearest stop at the intersection of 58th Street and 58th Drive, an approximately nine-minute walk.
“They don’t run very well on good days. They aren’t reliable,” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association and active protester against the shelter, of the bus lines. “But access to public transportation doesn’t seem to be something they are concerned about. Any reasonable person would see that. There is no rhyme or reason for the placement of the shelter at this hotel. They are also putting hotel workers out of work too, possibly making them homeless. No one is taking that into consideration.”
If someone is looking to take a train, that is a different story. No train stations are within walking distance of the hotel. Commuters would need to take either bus route to Queensboro Plaza to get the 7, N or Q trains, or head to the Queens Plaza stop to get the E, M or R trains.
A bus ride is $2.75; if a person does not have a MetroCard (which allows free transfers between buses and trains), transferring from a bus to a subway train would cost them another $2.75 fare.
Let’s say a resident wants to save a couple of bucks and walk to the nearest subway station, which is the Woodside-61st Street station on the 7 line. The shortest walk there is a 34-minute, 1.6-mile trek up Maurice Avenue, Tyler Avenue, 61st and 63rd streets and Woodside Avenue; along the way, the resident would need to cross major roadways such as Laurel Hill Boulevard (beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) and Queens Boulevard (sometimes referred to as the “Boulevard of Death” because of the many pedestrians who were struck by vehicles and killed while trying to cross it).
A slightly easier option would be to walk to the Fresh Pond Road station on the M line in Ridgewood, which is located 1.8 miles from the Holiday Inn Express. Walking down Borden Avenue, 61st Street and Fresh Pond Road, it would take a pedestrian about 38 minutes to get there.
However, DHS confirmed that if a resident of the shelter is traveling to an employment fair or to other resources that would help provide employment opportunities, transportation will be provided for them. Also, employment specialists will be on-site to help residents find a job, access job training programs and other support.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner would be delivered daily to the residents of the shelter, a DHS representative said. Anyone with special nutritional needs will be accommodated and all meals would meet NYC Food Standards.
If residents want to eat something a little different, they are going to have a hard time finding a place to eat healthy at a reasonable price.
There is a McDonald’s located across the street from the shelter at 59-60 55th Rd. McDonald’s has healthy options such as salads, but they tend to be on the more expensive side; hamburgers and chicken nuggets, greasy and calorie-laden, are a far cheaper alternative.
Grand Avenue, Maspeth’s busiest shopping strip, has plenty of food options, but the shelter isn’t that close. A Subway sandwich shop is located at 69-79 Grand Ave., which is approximately 18 minutes away on foot; Three Sons Pizzeria, located 57-29 61st St., is only a nine-minute walk from the hotel; there are various other eateries like pizzerias and Chinese food restaurants within walking distance.
To get groceries, the shelter residents would have to travel to the nearest supermarket, the Key Food at 66-17 Grand Ave. This would be a 24-minute round trip — 12 minutes each way — and probably slower on the trip back from the market to the hotel, considering they’ll be lugging bags full of food and beverages.
Although it may be tough for shelter residents to get around to the things they need, DHS has said that the shelter would provide its residents with on-site and off-site social services, on-site housing specialists, case managers and social workers who would deliver and facilitate access to benefits and social services, such as mental health, substance use treatment, primary care and other health services.
So if a shelter does open at the Holiday Inn location against the wishes of the community, the homeless will have to do some traveling to get to the local places they need to reach. But, as of Friday, Sept. 30, there are “no updates at this time,” a representative from DHS said regarding the opening of the shelter.
*All times were gathered using Google Maps.