Don’t turn city hotels into homeless shelters

By Bob Harris

The civic associations of Queens are concerned about the number of hotels which are being built. There is concern that the owners of these hotels could lease them to the city as homeless shelters. Two small hotels have already been turned into homeless shelters.

One hotel is the Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th St. in Long Island City. The building has 94 rooms and houses about 200 women. It seems that an advisory board meeting by the Department of Homeless Services about this hotel caused a furor because the press was not permitted to attend. The excuse given was that sensitive information about the clients might be revealed or that clients might be present and might want to talk. Well, my feeling is that the clients might want to speak and tell of the poor way some of these homeless shelters are maintained.

Another hotel which was suddenly turned into a homeless shelter is the Par Central Motor Inn at 82-85 Parsons Blvd. in Jamaica, which is near a couple of active civic associations. Community Board 8 was not informed that 33 homeless families were being placed in the hotel and it has sent a letter of concern to the NYC Human Resources Administration.

Another hotel which was turned into a homeless shelter was the Pan American Hotel, which is now called the Boulevard Family Residence. It is at 79-00 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst and opened as a shelter in June 2014 with little or no notification to the surrounding community which led to years of demonstrations by civic leaders and legislators. It has 216 units with many children. A new city contract with Samaritan Village to operate the building has been approved by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Are there places where children can do homework?

This type of facility is one reason why many people oppose these shelters. There are numerous building violations of all kinds. The city Administrative Code is violated because the units do not have kitchen facilities, which means that families are now cooking on hot plates. Samaritan village says it can correct the violations and provide a daycare center, a playground and outdoor recreation facilities. A civic leader involved with this facility came to last month’s Queens Civic Congress. One problem he told about was the actions of some of the residents who wander around the neighborhood, take off their clothes and throw them around and do other weird things.

One big problem is that some families are dysfunctional, some people have mental problems and don’t take their medicines, which would make them behave more rationally, and some people are addicts and behave abnormally. These facilities need mental services and guidance services and people to help the families solve any problems they have. If there are not enough services to meet the needs of the clients, the community will suffer and will complain, fighting the facility and causing all kinds of disruptions.

Three large hotels are being built in Fresh Meadows. One 12-story hotel is just to the west of the Fresh Meadows Development at 61-27 186th St. It will have 102 transient rooms to be rented to Chinese students who will not stay more than 30 days. Sounds strange to me! The Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association has sent a letter of concern to the mayor. The developer has refused to meet with civic leaders. There is concern that the owners will turn this building over to the city for homeless shelters.

Just about 600 feet across the Long Island Expressway from this hotel, two Marriott 146-room hotels are being built on the westbound LIE service road. Who will use them? They are a couple of blocks from Francis Lewis High School. Will the owner try to flip them into homeless shelters?

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Civics have spent decades fighting to improve their communities and now City Hall may destroy all this.

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