South Ozone Pk. protests all-male shelter

State Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (l.) speaks as City Councilman Ruben Wills (c.) signs a petition against a homeless shelter. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

The South Ozone Park community has banded together to demand that the city be up front with them over a homeless shelter that was established last month near PS 124 without any notification to the neighborhood.

Dozens of parents, residents and elected officials gathered at the elementary school at 129-15 150th Ave. Saturday morning to sign a petition that mandates the Skyview Family Homeless shelter be renamed so it can reflect who is really living there. The shelter, at 132-10 South Conduit Ave., less than two blocks from the school, opened in February and currently houses nearly 180 single homeless men, according to City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who organized the meeting and the petition.

The councilman, who was joined by state Assemblywomen Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) and Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway), said he had no problem with the shelter opening up — he was just furious the city Department of Homeless Services did not alert Community Board 10 that it was changing from a shelter for families into one for just single men.

“They put it in a place where they said there would be no opposition,” he said.

Out of the 18 homeless shelters in Queens, 10 are in Community Board 12’s jurisdiction, which includes most of the southeast Queens neighborhoods near South Ozone Park. Residents have complained that their streets have been inundated with shelter tenants.

Since Skyview’s opening, parents and school officials have complained that tenants have been spotted around the school. Valerie Lewis, the school’s principal, said she has not received any word from parents or students that the tenants have done anything inappropriate, but she is concerned about safety.

She said she has spoke with administrators at Basic Housing Inc., the nonprofit that is running the shelter, and it has agreed to add security guards around the school.

A Basic representative did not return phone calls for comment before press time Tuesday evening. A spokeswoman for DHS said the agency informed Wills, the borough president and CB 10 well in advance of its opening.

The spokeswoman added that the facility has 24-hour security and a van service that transports the tenants to their appointments.

“We have recently seen an increase in the number of adults applying for services and as such, the agency must make judicious use of all its capacity as demand needs change,” said DHS representative Heather Janik.

Wills and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) are working on legislation known as the fair share legislation that would not only limit the number of shelters that can be placed in each community board district, but also give residents earlier notification of the openings of these facilities.

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

More from Around New York