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Comptroller rejects contract at Pan Am shelter for third time

By Bill Parry

City Comptroller Scott Stringer has rejected the Department of Homeless Services’ proposed five-year, $42 million contract with service provider Samaritan Village that would convert the former Pan American Hotel into a permanent shelter for homeless families. The Boulevard Family Shelter, which operates in the 216-unit shelter at 79-00 Queens Blvd., will have to resubmit its plans.

“We have asked the Department of Homeless Services to revise its plans to address outstanding health and safety violations,” Stringer spokesman Eric Sumberg said. The third rejection comes after Stringer denied the plan in May and July citing safety issues and violations.

A DHS spokeswoman said, “We’ve submitted everything we need to have this contract registered, and we’re confident this site is safe for residents.”

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) has expressed her opposition frequently. She welcomed the latest move by Stringer.

“Perhaps the third time will be the charm,” Meng said. “Perhaps the DHS and Samaritan Village will finally get the message that this is not the appropriate site for a homeless shelter. As I have said, it is imperative that we address the needs of the homeless in our city. But those in the shelters deserve to be housed in a clean, safe and well-maintained environment, and that facility is not.” She added, “This location has been plagued with numerous problems and poor conditions that have not served the homeless well. 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.”

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Children and Families, had scathing remarks about the service provider.

“It is shameful that Samaritan Village continues to push for a contract that is so glaringly in violation of city code,” Avella said. “Regardless of one’s socio-economic situation, an individual has the right to a clean and safe environment. Pan Am lacks kitchens, has unreliable hot water and is troubled by an array of health and safety issues. The city should be allocating funds for homeless shelters that can cater to basic human needs rather than facilities that warehouse families.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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