By Juan Soto
The alarms went off in Bayside, even before the fire.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said the city is contemplating opening an emergency homeless shelter in the Bayside area in the coming months, and community leaders and elected officials immediately expressed outrage about those proposed plans.
The exact location is not known, but the lawmaker said the site is in an overlapping area of his district and Assemblywoman’s Nily Rozdic (D-Flushing).
The Department of Homeless Services denied any plans for a Bayside shelter. But DHS is planning to create new emergency shelters in the borough. For now, the only neighborhood being specifically mentioned by name is Far Rockaway, where residents and leaders oppose the project.
“DHS has no plans for a shelter in Bayside at this time,” a DHS spokesman said. “However, as the agency sheltering New York’s most vulnerable, it is our hope that communities across the city can find compassion to help and embrace these New Yorkers as they rebuild their lives so they can soon contribute to a stronger New York from which we can all benefit.”
Bayside is not alone on the city’s map.
District managers from the borough’s community boards met recently with Borough President Melinda Katz to discuss the city’s plans for shelters, among other topics.
There is no official word on the number of shelters slated for the borough.
Sources at the borough president’s office said Katz is trying to schedule a meeting with DHS officials to find out about specific plans for shelters in Queens.
“We don’t know anything about it,” said Susan Seinfeld, CB 11’s district manager. “We will keep an eye on this; that’s the only thing we can do until there is some sort of announcement.”
CB 11 and elected officials will be at the frontline of this particular battle.
“I don’t think anyone would be happy about this proposal,” Seinfeld said.
“Of all the places to target for an emergency homeless shelter, Bayside, one of the most residential neighborhoods in New York City with an extreme lack of public transportation options, is not even remotely appropriate,” said Vallone.
The lawmaker is “vehemently” opposed to the idea of Bayside being home to an emergency shelter.
Vallone wrote a letter to DHS asking the city agency to reconsider and turn its eyes to other locations. He admitted there were no concrete plans for a shelter in Bayside.
“As we’ve seen time and time again, a lack of community involvement, input or dialogue with civic leaders, and not offering alternative sites, clearly shows a complete disregard for the effect on our community,” wrote the lawmaker.
In the letter, Vallone pointed out, “to make it very clear, I am against this and our community is against this, and we will not sit idly by while DHS makes their determination.”
“This could never happen when you consider the humongous opposition there will be from our elected officials, civic leaders, community boards,” said Michael Feiner, president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.