By Bill Parry
The city has finally approved a limited contract for the Boulevard Family Shelter, in the former Pan American Hotel, on the provider’s fourth try, according to the city comptroller’s office. The $23.8 million, 30-month contract was registered, or approved, by Comptroller Scott Stringer, but its duration is just 30 months instead of the five-year contract that Samaritan Daytop Village was seeking.
“The Department of Homeless Services has provided the comptroller’s office with the required documentation that health and safety violations have been cured or that there are plans in place to address those violations at the family shelter,” Stringer spokesman Eric Sumberg said. “As a result, the comptroller’s office registered the DHS contract with Samaritan Daytop Village for a family shelter at this site.”
The 216-unit facility has caused great controversy since it opened, at 79-00 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, in June 2014. Numerous community groups from the surrounding neighborhoods staged several boisterous rallies and town hall meetings to protest the shelter.
The facility received numerous violations from the city and the provider’s contract proposals were rejected three times by Stringer, citing unsanitary rodent and insect infestations as well as improper disposal of garbage.
The contract does have conditions, according to the Comptroller’s office. Samaritan Daytop Village will have to develop plans and construction time lines for kitchens in each unit that would meet compliance with the city’s Administrative Code as well as a playground and a daycare center by June 30 or the contract would be canceled.
The official called it a mechanism that would create greater accountability on behalf of the shelter operator. State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) worked for months with Stringer, the mayor’s office, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and members of the Elmhurst community for months to make sure the family residents of the shelter were taken care of properly and the community’s concerns were heard.
“Although the contract addendums for the Boulevard Family Residence will hold Samaritan Village accountable for developing a more adequate residence for the families, I am dismayed.” Stavisky said.
“The shelter was opened under controversial circumstances, with little or no information being shared with the public prior,” she said. “While I still have concerns—there are hundreds of children being sent to School District 24, the most overcrowded district in the city, and the building has been hit with a number of violations—I understand the comptroller has exercised all of his options. I was satisfied that this is the best we could hope for.”
Stavisky thinks it is important for the surrounding community to know that 45 percent of the adult residents are working but can’t afford to pay rent.
“I am disappointed that they didn’t close this shelter,” Stavisky said. “But it is there and we have to make it work. But you can be sure, I’ll be keeping my eye on it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr