Letters and comments on homeless shelter, tenants and spa raids


Editor’s note: The following is an open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

With the departure of Gilbert Taylor as commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), we hope you will utilize this opportunity to address the faulty decisions made by Commissioner Taylor during his brief tenure, in particular, the approval to open a 216-room shelter in the ill-suited Pan American hotel.

Since the shelter opened in the congested neighborhood of Elmhurst in June 2014, without any notification or community input, the area residents, including local elected officials, have raised numerous concerns about the suitability of the facility to properly house homeless families with children.

The old Pan American hotel fails to meet city and state laws as well as DHS’ own Request for Proposal requirements to shelter homeless families with children. The building is not equipped with cooking facilities in each unit, as required under Section 21-124 of the NYC Administrative Code, nor does the shelter provide childcare services, as required by NYS Regulation 18 NYCRR Part 900. These regulations were enacted to help homeless families get back on their feet.

Why create a shelter that does not meet or comply with these regulations and criteria? Whether you agree with these regulations or not, why does the city continue to pay an exorbitant $4,000 every month to inhumanely house a family of four in one small hotel room, when apartments in the area rent for much less?

DHS, under former Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, made an ill-considered decision to place a homeless shelter in the old Pan American hotel. We are calling for you to rectify this matter by not awarding a long-term, permanent contract to the shelter operator Samaritan Village and by ceasing operations of the Pan Am hotel as a shelter. We ask that you begin to search for smaller, more manageable sites in which homeless residents can easily assimilate into the neighborhood, ensure that families are sheltered in a residential unit with a kitchen, and fully engage the Elmhurst community when siting a shelter.

Jennifer Chu, president, Elmhurst United



I’m referring to your Dec. 24 article explaining to tenants how to avoid renting illegal apartments. It was more of a how-to guide. These people are well aware of what they are renting. All they have to do look is look at the price of the rent.

These are the same people who register their cars out of state to beat the system. In Ridgewood and Glendale, they slither out of the basements early in the morning on the way to the trains and buses [and] they dump their garbage on Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road. They have jobs, but just look to get over. They have ruined the quality of life in Ridgewood and Glendale.

Nothing will change until the landlords are held responsible.

Larry Kunkel, Glendale



In his condemnation of the work Capt. Mark Wachter of the 104th Precinct is doing closing massage parlors, I believe that Jojo has made the mistake of taking the term literally. The employees are not actually massage therapists; they are prostitutes engaging in sexual activity with their ‘clients.’ Obviously, this is illegal and should be stopped.

But even if these were actual message parlors, Jojo should be aware that medicinal message therapy is much different than having your spouse rub your back while you sit on the couch watching television. Masseuses are highly trained medical specialists (like physical therapists and chiropractors) that are licensed and/or certified after going to school where they learn different techniques, including Swedish and deep tissue. If done wrong, they can cause pain and possible permanent damage.

This is why they are well-regulated, and also should be closed it they do not have the necessary permits and qualified staff working there.

Lee Rottenberg, Middle Village

It’s time to make New Year’s resolutions for your community — and AARP’s Livability Index can help you do just that.

In 2015, AARP launched the Index, a web-based tool to measure the quality of life in American communities across multiple dimensions: housing, neighborhood characteristics, transportation, environment, health, civic and social engagement and opportunity. New York City scored among the top five large cities in the country.
Queens scored a 59 out of 100 for overall livability — scoring high on the availability of transportation and neighborhood characteristics (access to life, work and play), but low on measures of environment and civic engagement. Explore the tool and check out how your neighborhood scores or view Queens data at https://livabilityindex.aarp.org/.

The Livability Index helps people to better understand their communities, learn how to take action to make their own communities more livable and make decisions about future needs. Use it to better Queens in 2016!

Chris Widelo, Associate State Director of AARP for New York City

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