City Comptroller rejects Pan Am homeless shelter proposal for a third time


Updated 2:15 p.m.

For the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the third time was not a charm.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer has once again rejected the agency’s proposal, which was submitted twice before, to convert the former Pan American Hotel located at 79-00 Queens Blvd. into a permanent homeless shelter.

“The Comptroller’s Office rejected for the third time a permanent contract for Samaritan Village Inc. to operate a shelter at the Pan American Hotel. We have asked the Department of Homeless Services to revise its plan to address outstanding health and safety violations,” said Eric Sumberg, spokesman for Stringer.

The emergency homeless shelter at the former Elmhurst hotel was supposed to close last December, yet even after facing large opposition from community members, an application was submitted to convert it into a permanent shelter under a five-year, $42 million contract with DHS.

This third rejection comes after Stringer already sent the proposal back to DHS in July and May citing that changes, such as clearing all outstanding violations and complaints, needed to be made before he considered accepting.

Congresswoman Grace Meng applauded Stringer’s decision and voiced her opinion on the proposed shelter.

“I thank the comptroller for once again saying no to this ill-conceived plan,” Meng said. “Perhaps the third time will be the charm. Perhaps the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and Samaritan Village will finally get the message that this is not an appropriate site for a homeless shelter.”

Meng also added that she urges the DHS to not resubmit the proposal once again and instead to look for another site.

“As I have said, it is imperative that we address the needs of the homeless in our city. But those in shelters deserve to be housed in a clean, safe and well-maintained environment, and this facility is not that. This location has been plagued with numerous problems and poor conditions that have not served the homeless well,” she continued. “In fact, it’s been a disservice to the homeless. I urge DHS to not resubmit its proposal for a fourth time. The agency should instead focus on finding a more suitable location that can better address the needs of New York’s homeless population.”

Local grassroots organization Elmhurst United, which has been against the proposed homeless shelter since day one, also thanked Stringer for his decision and continued to note violations such as an expired Certificate of Occupancy and non-compliance of the city Administrative Code requiring a cooking facility in each unit at the site.

“DHS’ strategy of rapidly increasing the number of shelters is not a viable solution. Permanent housing where one can call home is the only solution. Recent studies highlight the detrimental impact and the long lasting scars homelessness has on children. These children need a secure and stable environment, not a transient one,” the organization said in a statement. “Rent subsidy programs must be reinstated so that these families are placed in permanent housing and close to their home base. The Pan Am shelter has proven to be an unworkable and unfit site. We urge DHS to stop warehousing homeless families at that Pan Am site and to place them in permanent housing instead.”