By Bill Parry
State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) has spoken with city Comptroller Scott Stringer twice since the city revealed its proposal to turn the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth into a temporary shelter for homeless couples earlier this month. Stringer assured Markey that he would listen closely to the community’s concerns, particularly about any move for speeded-up approval of the siting of the shelter by the de Blasio administration before a thorough community review, according to Markey’s chief of staff Michael Armstrong.
Stinger was “sympathetic” to the concerns and cause of Maspeth residents. Markey asked the comptroller to deny the shelter plan, but Stringer is unable to do anything until he receives a contract, Armstrong said. “I have already spoken to Comptroller Scott Stringer and alerted him to our determination to oppose this shelter contract and I know he is listening to us.” Markey said in statement released Monday. “Also, we will absolutely oppose an end-run around the community and the Comptroller if the mayor seeks to speed up the plan in the face of our opposition by seeking an emergency declaration for the contract.”
Markey was booed for not attending the community meeting Aug. 11 at Martin Luther High School, and Democratic primary challenger Brian Barnwell told the crowd, “We deserve a representative who will show up and fight for the community.”
The assemblywoman was on her way to the meeting when a family emergency caused her to change plans, according Armstrong, who said each elected official is pursuing the fight against the city’s plan on different front.
Markey is working to arrange a face-to-face meeting between herself, Stringer, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), he said, adding that Markey has been opposed to the city’s plan from the start.
“This proposal is a mistake,” Markey said Monday. “Even though City Hall seems intent to go ahead with this plan despite our opposition, the mayor and his Administration should know that Maspeth and its elected officials and community leaders will fight this plan every way we can, at the agency level, at City Hall, at the comptroller’s office and in the courts if necessary.”
Markey also co-signed a letter to Stringer with Crowley, Addabbo and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng last Friday calling the current plan ill-conceived, inadequate, and not in the best interest of New Yorkers in need and that the proposal does not comport with current law or stated policy positions of the mayor. The Holiday Inn Express is located at 59-40 55th Rd. within the boundaries of an Industrial Business Zone.
“No residential uses are currently permitted in IBZs, except by rezoning,” they lawmakers wrote. “The administration and the Council have agreed to further strengthen that prohibition to curb speculation. Going forward, no private applications for residential uses in IBZs will be supported by the Council or administration.”
A homeless shelter is not industrial, nor is it a business. By definition, it is residential and should be treated as such, they wrote.
“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.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr