Following numerous security issues, lawmaker calls for shorter contract for LIC homeless shelter

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A women’s homeless shelter in Long Island City that is looking to renew its contract with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is facing opposition from a local lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan says that the four year, $39 million contract between Acacia Network and the city agency to operate Pam’s Settlement at 40-03 29th St. is “too lengthy.” She also argued that the contract should be awarded on a yearly basis.

The public hearing for the contract took place on April 15 and a spokesperson for Nolan said her office was notified about the hearing few days before. In a letter to DHS, Nolan said the short notice is not long enough for her to make an informed decision. She also outlined the ways that the service provider “negatively impacted the neighborhood” since it opened last October.

“There were over 400 911 calls to the location in a six-week period soon after opening,” Nolan said in her letter. “Although the situation has improved, I remain deeply concerned for the welfare of the residents and with the operator’s ability to properly assist them.”

She also added that there continue to be reports of security employees smoking with residents in front of Pam’s Settlement as recent as last month. The 114th Precinct visited a Community Board 1 meeting in February to talk about several violent incidents that occurred with residents there and to ask that DHS and Acacia Network provide more security.

Additional security has been added to the shelter with a total of 16 security officers on premises who are split between three shifts, according to DHS. The service provider has also hired Sera Security to conduct roving auto patrols around the facility from 8 a.m. to midnight.

“Over the past several months, DHS has worked closely with elected officials and community leaders with regard to this facility,” a spokesperson for DHS said. “All public testimony is taken under advisement and we look forward to continuing a productive dialogue with leaders as we work together to support our clients and the surrounding community.”

Nolan said she was only provided with a summary sheet of the contract and not the contract itself. The summary sheet did not include pertinent information, including who was contacted for the Request for Proposal (RFP) process and a more thorough evaluation of the contract terms.

“This lack of openness alone should delay the approval of this contract,” Nolan said in the letter.

Florence Koulouris, district manager of Community Board 1, said her office has concerns about the shelter’s location — it is located near several schools including Newcomers High School and Growing Up Green charter school.

The shelter was opened under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s emergency declaration and community officials were given short notice about its opening.

Koulouris said she hopes that Acacia Network will better maintain its facility and improve its treatment of residents.

“We hope that Acacia becomes a good neighbor in the maintenance of the shelter and that their guidance to the women is positive,” she said. “[Our] concern is that women in the shelter are safe and cared for.”

She also added that her office would like DHS to “carefully” look at the women who will be placed at Pam’s Settlement because of the shelter’s proximity to the schools. The shelter houses 200 women, of which 173 have some kind of mental health issue, DHS said.

“We also have a huge concern for the taxpayers,” Koulouris said. “These constituents have a right to a quality of life.”

The DHS spokesperson said it will take approximately one to three months for the contract to be sent to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office for approval. Stringer then will have 30 days to approve or deny the contract.

QNS reached out to Acacia Network about the contract and is awaiting response.