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Bring city shelters up to standards

By Anna Orjuela

Gilbert Taylor, former commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, has voluntarily or involuntarily resigned. Regardless, this is a much-needed change, which provides the city with an opportunity to rectify some of his poor decisions as well as reform the agency to effectively help those in need.

Aside from his dismal failure in stemming the tide of homelessness, Taylor fundamentally misled the Elmhurst community and broke the law when he illegally converted run-down commercial hotels like the Pan Am and Westway into family homeless shelters.

Although New York City Administrative Code 21–124(b) requires that all family homeless shelters provide a bathroom, a refrigerator, a cooking facility and an adequate sleeping area within each unit, Taylor blatantly disregarded the cooking facility requirement and had homeless families move into small hotel rooms. These families were forced to languish in these rooms for over a year without access to a kitchen. As a lawyer, was he clueless or simply being reckless?

By not requiring these shelters to install kitchens, DHS is endangering these families and depriving them of essential services. In addition, the City is back-stopping the hotel industry. If the hotel owner’s business is not doing well, they will convert their hotels into shelters and collect $4,000 a month per room without having to invest in any renovations. They would simply reduce their staff and collect an exorbitant amount of taxpayers’ hard-earned money from DHS.

Additionally, community boards and local residents in every neighborhood are now wary of developers who are looking to build a hotel. Are the developers really building a hotel or are they building a homeless shelter because, according to Gilbert Taylor, there is no distinction between the two? This is an unnecessary uncertainty and hinders the city’s economic growth.

For a progressive mayor who came into power by pledging to implement policies that will help the poor, this is complete hypocrisy! Mayor de Blasio is not helping the poor or the working class, he is actually helping the rich by fleecing taxpayers. We ask the Mayor to restore the people’s faith in government and force these operators to adhere to the law and install a kitchen in each family shelter living unit. Otherwise, no contract or taxpayer funds should be awarded.

Anna Orjuela

Resident of Queens Community
Board 4 for over 30 years,

Member of Elmhurst United

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