For the eighth day (and definitely not the last), Maspeth residents gathered outside of the Holiday Inn Express located at 59-40 55th Rd. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, to rally against the planned homeless shelter at the site, blasting the local government for not standing with them.
The focus of their scorn was aimed at Mayor Bill de Blasio for planning to turn yet another hotel into a homeless shelter in their neighborhood, and at local elected officials Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and state Senator Joseph Addabbo for not standing with them in their fight.
“The elected officials don’t show up to rallies and meetings because they are afraid of answering questions, but they show up to safe environments where they can give their prepared speeches and not have to think on their feet and answer questions,” said Brian Barnwell, the Woodside resident who will challenge Markey in the September Democratic primary. “If they really are against it like they say, there is absolutely no reason why they wouldn’t come to one protest.”
Barnwell joined the more than 100 residents who filled the sidewalk in front of the hotel, shouting, “No homeless shelter,” and “Boycott the Holiday Inn,” as they marched up and down their line holding signs, blasting air horns, blowing whistles and even using megaphones to get their message across.
“The residents of Maspeth are not against homeless people,” said Ara Chekmayan, a former Maspeth resident. “They are against the lack of transparency in choosing this site and the lack of the public being allowed to ask questions and have them answered.”
Protesters believe that converting this hotel into a shelter will not help the community or the homeless people that it is meant to serve. Many suggested that placing homeless people in hotel rooms is not the solution to the city’s homelessness crisis.
“I don’t think they are helping these people; they are enabling them,” said Barbara Podgurski, a 50-year resident of Maspeth. “It’s not helping the community either. People work hard and have homes here. Their values will go down if this shelter opens. With all the money the city is paying, they can find them apartments rather than stick them in a hotel.”
Aside from the daily protests, the community is planning a protest march on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Holiday Inn. They will be leaving the hotel and marching up to Grand Avenue, down 69th Street, past the Maspeth Federal Saving and back to the hotel to draw more attention to their cause.
There will also be another public hearing about the shelter plan conducted by Community Board 5 (CB 5) on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth.