By Bill Parry
After her office was flooded with phone calls from concerned Elmhurst residents in recent weeks, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) is squelching rumors of a second homeless shelter near the Pan American hotel. A recent Newtown Civic Association newsletter reported that a vacant lot nearby had been approved for a mixed-use building, fueling speculation among anxious homeowners.
“Despite several news stories and concerns expressed by Elmhurst residents, I can happily confirm that the rumors of a second homeless shelter opening alongside the Pan Am are false,” Stavisky said. “I have received written assurance from the Department of Homeless Services that there will be no expanding the Pan Am facility or opening of a new shelter. I am pleased to put the fears and concerns of a new shelter to rest.”
The Boulevard Family Shelter moved into the vacant hotel, located at 79-00 Queens Blvd. in June 2014, triggering anger among area residents over the lack of public input.
“We’re really glad she got that assurance in writing,” Elmhurst United founder Jennifer Chu said. “We all know the DHS often says one thing and then does another when it comes to these shelters.”
Meanwhile, a recent study inspired by the shelter is also creating a stir among area residents. “A Neighborhood Divided: Gentrification, Poverty, and Homelessness in Elmhurst/Corona” was released by a Manhattan non-profit last week.
The Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness studied data between 2005 and 2013 looking at rent patterns and income changes for residents of the two neighborhoods that showed that housing is becoming more unaffordable for low-income families.
The study found that the number of households earning at least $100,000 more than doubled, from 8 to 17 percent, while the population in almost every other income bracket fell. In the southwest sections of Elmhurst and Corona, 15 percent were living in poverty while in the northeast part the number was 23 percent, according to the data.
“I actually think they are just picking and choosing census data and I think some of it is pulling at straws,” Chu said. “I think they should have come out and walked the neighborhoods and interviewed residents and some of the civic organizations that are out here. I think that would have added some credibility to their study.”
The ICPH says in parts of Corona, 56 percent of residents are spending more than half of their income on rent.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr