By Bill Parry
The Elmhurst community has been shaken since two registered sex offenders were identified as living in the shelter for homeless families at the former Pan American hotel. Convicted rapist Rodney Moultrie and convicted child predator Dwayne Clark registered with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services June 7 providing the address 79-00 Queens Blvd., that of the Boulevard Family Residence.
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) fired off a letter to Commissioner Steven Banks of the Human Resources Administration 10 days later complaining that the shelter is less than 600 feet from the 51st Avenue Academy and IS 5 is on the next block. The letter, co-signed by U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) never received a response, but at Stavisky’s request HRA sent representatives to a community advisory board meeting at the Pan American shelter Monday.
“According to HRA, there are currently no registered sex offenders living at the shelter, which is a relief,” Stavisky said. “However, due to privacy laws, we have no way of knowing if these individuals had ever lived at the Pan Am and, if so, for how long. Regardless of their parole or probation status, I cannot stress enough how inappropriate it is to place a convicted sex offender in a family shelter with nearly 300 children. The children’s safety, the safety of the surrounding community and the safety of other shelter residents are a priority.”
On Tuesday, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) joined members of Elmhurst United outside the shelter to demand the city find alternative housing for them. The city earlier this month claimed that no one on the registry currently resided there, however, shelter residents confirm that they had seen the sex offenders as recently as last weekend, according to Avella.
“The city has failed to implement the very procedures they’ve acknowledged are necessary to protect homeless families, and have allowed Level 3 sex offenders to occupy the same shelters shared by children. Either DHS was disingenuous with their statement that Level 3 sex offenders were not in the Pan Am shelter, or they were outright unaware. Either scenario is deeply concerning,” Avella said. “You can be sympathetic to keeping a sex offender’s family together, but do so while finding a solution that doesn’t also endanger countless other families.”
DHS explained its position the following morning.
“While the Department of Homeless Services did state publicly in early 2015 that it planned to change its policy, that change couldn’t be implemented because it would have conflicted with court orders,” DHS Senior Advisor for Communications Lauren Gray said. “The city is required by court order to provide shelter to everyone in need, including those with criminal justice involvement. The Department of Homeless Services continues to follow state law in the placement of sex offenders, some of whom have residency restrictions and must be placed in SARA compliant shelters, and some of whom do not have residency restrictions and can legally live anywhere in the city that they can afford. Regardless of residency restrictions, if they have a family, they must legally be allowed to live with their family.”
SARA stands for the Sexual Assault Reform Act that bars those who pose the highest risk of reoffending, or whose victims were under 18 years old from living within 1,000 feet of institutions serving children while still on parole.
“Because there is not a law in place to prevent any level two or three sex offenders from living in a shelter — one convicted of raping three children — than we must put one in place,” Stavisky said. “That is why since 2009 I have been a co-sponsor of legislation that would bar any level two or level three sex offenders from living in a family shelter. The Senate has passed the bill five times, including this year, but unfortunately the Assembly has failed to act.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr