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The Pan Am shelter has been a failure from the start

By Anna Orjuela

Since day one, the conversion of the Pan Am hotel into a homeless shelter has been an abysmal failure in terms of transparency. The de Blasio administration and the Department of Homeless Services blatantly disregarded various laws and even circumvented procedures to ensure the landlords and Samaritan Village receive their lucrative contracts.

Despite admitting that the Pan Am hotel was not a suitable facility to become a family homeless shelter, as it lacks a kitchen in each unit, DHS and Samaritan Village began smuggling homeless families into the building in May 2014. Local elected officials and the community board were notified weeks later when it was already a “done” deal and no input or objections could be voiced.

As the contract was awarded under an emergency declaration, Samaritan Village was spared scrutiny of how it used almost $1 million in state funds. The landlords were not required to clear violations with “Class-1” severity or install necessary fire alarm upgrades in order to accommodate up to 216 families with children for the long run.

After uncovering the details of the contract under the Freedom of Information Law, Elmhurst United has discovered something even more egregious. Mayor de Blasio wants to use government money to fund the installation of kitchens, so the landlord can qualify as a legitimate family homeless shelter. Taxpayers are already paying $3,700 a month to house homeless families of three or four people in a room no larger than 250 square feet. Now, de Blasio wants to go give the landlord an additional $3 million to fulfill critical requirements as a family homeless shelter.

For the Pan Am homeless shelter, there seem to be more questions than answers on the conduct of the mayor’s office. Why is de Blasio so accommodating and hell-bent on awarding 7900 Development LLC and Samaritan Village this contract? There needs to be oversight and adherence to laws and regulations regarding monies spent.

Anna Orjuela

Member of Elmhurst United

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