BY ANTHONY GIUDICE AND ROBERT POZARYCKI
The latest homeless shelter in Queens may be coming to Maspeth.
Officials with the Mayor’s Office met with representatives of Community Board 5 (CB 5) and elected officials at the Maspeth public library on Wednesday morning to discuss a plan to convert the Holiday Inn Express at 59-40 55th Rd. into a homeless shelter for adults within the next 60 days, according to CB 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri.
Lauren Gray, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services, confirmed both the meeting and the proposal in an email to QNS on Wednesday afternoon.
“Today, we met with members of the Maspeth community to listen to community concerns and share plans for a proposed shelter,” Gray said. “We are committed to participating in future forums to discuss this issue, in advance of the proposed shelter opening. The administration believes that homelessness is a citywide challenge that requires a citywide response. Currently, there are approximately 250 people in shelter who listed their most recent address as Community District Five in Queens.”
Acacia Network, which operates homeless shelters in Corona and the Bronx, wants to house 110 families at the Holiday Inn, Arcuri told QNS in a phone interview. The city defines these families as single adults or married couples; no persons under the age of 18 will be permitted at this shelter if it is opened. The shelter would have a maximum capacity of 220 people.
It was also noted that Acacia Network is committed to a robust security plan at the proposed shelter by providing full-time, on-site security staff, and would work closely with the 104th Precinct on matters off-site.
The city’s Human Resources Administration and the Department of Homeless Services would pay Acacia $60 per room daily to house homeless individuals at the Holiday Inn, said Arcuri, who attended the meeting.
Over the last three years, 10 new homeless shelters have opened across Queens, with many of them located at former hotels such as the Pan American on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst and The Verve in Long Island City. The city has also proposed creating a new shelter out of a former factory on the Glendale/Middle Village border, a plan that local residents are continuing to fight.
“I strongly oppose the Mayor’s office’s proposal to convert the Maspeth Holiday Inn into a homeless shelter,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. “The community of Maspeth is already impacted by two existing homeless shelters along Queens Boulevard. Also, the most recent City Budget has allocated hundreds of millions for homelessness prevention, and while we have seen a decrease in New York City’s shelter population since December 2014, the administration continues to open up shelter after shelter throughout Queens. I will be working with community leaders and residents to stop this.”
Word about Wednesday’s meeting apparently was circulated the night before at the 104th Precinct’s National Night Out Against Crime at Middle Village’s Juniper Valley Park and later disseminated on social media, according to Arcuri. As a result, a number of residents showed up at the meeting uninvited but looking for answers to their concerns about the proposal.
“Why continue this ridiculous shelter program and not support people financially [through other means] to keep them in their homes?” Arcuri said. He described the meeting — which included state Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley — as “a little contentious.”
A representative from the Holiday Inn Express in question said that no one at the hotel knows of the proposal to bring a homeless shelter to the site.
The Mayor’s Office is giving the community 30 days to come up with an alternative to the Holiday Inn Express site, and Arcuri said CB 5 will work to arrange for a formal presentation on the proposal at the board’s September meeting.
No one at Acacia Network responded to a call from QNS for comment on the situation.
This is a developing story; check with QNS later for further details.