As Maspeth residents gathered to protest the proposed homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn Express last week, one elected official was noticeably absent from the meeting: Assemblywoman Margaret Markey.
Community members were stunned that the assemblywoman did not attend, or send a representative in her place to the meeting on Thursday, Aug. 11, at Martin Luther High School, while her colleagues in government, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and state Senator Joseph Addabbo, stood alongside Maspeth and voiced their opposition against the shelter. Brian Barnwell, a Woodside resident challenging Markey in the September Democratic primary, was also present.
In a time of great concern for Maspeth, residents are looking toward the officials they helped elect into office to fight for them to prevent this shelter from opening, and Markey’s absence from the meeting ruffled plenty of feathers throughout the community.
In a statement released on Aug. 8, however, Markey came out against the shelter proposal, saying the plan “may be a mistake.”
“I am concerned about the opportunity for adequate community review of the proposal,” she added. “We need time to hear about the job placement and counseling services that will be provided to ensure that the shelter is truly ‘temporary’ for residents. I am also concerned about the track record of the proposed provider. We need answers to our questions and I am opposed to moving forward with this plan until we hear them.”
Later in the week Markey signed a letter — along with Congresswoman Grace Meng, Crowley and Addabbo — to City Comptroller Scott Stringer requesting he deny the shelter plan, claiming the plan is “ill-conceived, inadequate and not in the best interest of New Yorkers in need.”
The letter also notes that Holiday Inn Express, which is located at 59-40 55th Rd., falls within the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), and that according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “10 Point Industrial Action Plan,” no residential use is permitted in an IBZ.
Additionally, in a statement issued on Aug. 15, Markey expressed her staunch opposition the shelter plan.
“As the mayor has frequently said, placing homeless individuals into a hotel is a bad solution to the problem of homelessness and his administration was seeking to avoid this type of facility,” Markey said. “So why would this new proposal surface now in Maspeth? It is a mistake and all of us in Maspeth stand firmly against it.”
Many residents are still wondering what made Markey change her mind from thinking the shelter plan “may be a mistake,” to being firmly against it, as well as why she missed the meeting of such an important community issue.
A representative from Markey’s office said that the assemblywoman planned to be present and speak at the meeting, but had a family emergency en route and had to deal with it right then, and noted that she will continue to fight against the shelter coming to Maspeth.