Jamaica shelter draws anger in SE Queens

By Ivan Pereira

Southeast Queens community leaders said they are disappointed the city approved a new homeless shelter in Jamaica in spite of their calls to stop packing the area with those homes.

The city Department of Homeless Services alerted Community Board 12 Oct. 4 that it had approved the proposal by the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Housing Bridge to set up a 54-unit transitional home for homeless families at 170-02 93rd Ave.

Adjoa Gzifa, chairwoman of the board, said she was livid the department went ahead with the plans because it would make it the 10th homeless shelter that has been set up in the neighborhood.

“It’s unconscionable that we have 10 shelters in our district when others have none,” she said.

There are currently 18 official homeless shelters throughout the borough, according to Homeless Services. That does not include special homes for people with disabilities and shelters that are not identified by the DOH, according to CB 12

Administrators from Housing Bridge, which also has similar shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan and East Elmhurst, did not return phone calls for comment.

The city does not have an exact date as to when the shelter will open and when tenants will move in.

In past meetings with the board, Housing Bridge officials said tenants must be referred to them from DOH and must have children in order to qualify for housing. The families will work with counselors and trained professionals to get job training and other skills and will eventually live on their own.

During an appearance at the board’s monthly meeting in June, Housing Bridge’s chairman, Isaac Leshinsky, said there would be a security staff and tenants would have to follow a strict curfew.

Despite the promises, Gzifa and other southeast Queens leaders protested the idea from the outset.

“I’m wondering why we need to get all the shelters dumped in Board 12. Yes, homeless people deserve a place to stay, but they all shouldn’t be in Board 12,” she said.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who led a protest outside the building over the summer, agreed. He noted that the shelter was located right next to the Conlon Lihfe Towers Senior Residence and the tenants of that building have expressed deep concern.

“I’m disappointed that DOH doesn’t get it,” he said. “The shelter will create a clog of homeless people near senior citizens.”

Gzifa said she will continue to fight the proposal and is talking with her fellow board members on any ideas to stop the surge of shelters.

“When [it opens], I will be the first one protesting,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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