The city has set up a temporary homeless shelter at the Quality Inn hotel in Woodside without notifying elected officials or community members.
A Woodside resident approached Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer to notify him that families have been moving into the hotel at 53-05 Queens Blvd. for the past several months, said Arielle Swernoff, a spokesperson for Van Bramer. The Department of Homeless Services and the Mayor’s Office did not discuss plans for the conversion with him or Community Board 2.
“While I will never protest the women and children seeking shelter at the Quality Inn, I am extremely upset that the administration converted this hotel into a temporary shelter without notifying anyone in the community,” Van Bramer said. “In situations like this, the best policy is transparency — not trying to sneak changes past local communities.”
Denise Keehan-Smith, chairperson of Community Board 2, said the board was not notified by anyone about these plans.
Lauren Gray, senior adviser for communications for DHS, said that there are currently no plans to turn the temporary shelter into a permanent one. She did not specify how many rooms the city was renting or when DHS would move the families out.
“Each day, we are tasked with determining how to meet the city’s legal obligation to house thousands of homeless New Yorkers, including families with children, who would otherwise be on the street,” Gray said. “We thank the communities and businesses standing with their neighbors as they navigate the most difficult situations of their lives, and we are doing our part to bring appropriate security and social services to the sites we utilize, including those that are, like this space, not functioning as homeless shelters.”
The situation resembles the transformation of the former Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst into a homeless shelter in June 2014. At that time, local officials said they weren’t provided advance notice that homeless families were being moved into the hotel. The city would later approve a contract by Samaritan Village to make the shelter permanent.
Swernoff said Van Bramer’s office has asked the city for a detailed schedule outlining when they plan to phase out the hotel from the shelter system.
In January, De Blasio announced a three-year plan to phase out and permanently end the city’s 15-year practice of putting homeless families in “cluster” shelter units. His plan came after a mother and her two children were brutally stabbed and killed by the mother’s boyfriend in a Staten Island hotel that housed homeless families.
Though the hotel had security and non-residents were not allowed to enter, the Daily News reported that people visiting residents walked freely in and out of the shelter. Shortly after, a homeless man living in a hotel shelter in Harlem stabbed his roommate to death.
QNS reached out to the Mayor’s Office to ask how turning the Quality Inn into a temporary shelter fits into his plan to phase out the use of hotels but has not received a response.
Sunnyside Post first reported the story.