Maspeth residents protest proposed homeless shelter

By Gina Martinez

Hundreds of Maspeth residents and several lawmakers expressed their outrage at a new proposed homeless shelter during a town hall meeting held Thursday night.

The city has plans to turn the Holiday Inn Express, located at 59-40 55th Rd., into a homeless shelter. The meeting was coordinated by the civil group, COMET: Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, which opposed the shelter.

Plans for a potential Oct. 1 opening of the shelter were proposed earlier this month when the Mayor’s Office met with CB 5 and elected officials at the Maspeth Public Library. Lauren Gray, spokeswoman for DHS, confirmed the meeting in a statement.

“We met with members of the Maspeth community to listen to community concerns and share plans for a proposed shelter,” she 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 5 in Queens.”

The shelter would house 110 families, or 220 people, whose last address was within the confines of Community Board 5, according to DHS.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) joined the hundreds who attended the meeting at Martin Luther School at 60-02 Maspeth Ave. and said one of the main issues residents have with the new homeless shelter is the fact that there are already three within the Maspeth area.

“As the administration is already well aware, there are three shelters literally within walking distance of the Holiday Inn site greatly impacting Maspeth,” she said. “One of these shelters, the Pan American Hotel, houses more than 200 families. We were told that this would be a safe site, with no sex offenders and no one negatively impacting the community. However, not one but two sex offenders have made a home inside the Pan Am, crime has been on the rise and schools have longer wait lists.”

The shelters referred to are the Quality Inn, located at 53-05 Queens Blvd. in Woodside, currently housing 37 families; the Pan Am hotel at 79-00 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst; and an old factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave., in Glendale.

After the meeting ended, a number of people marched to the Holiday Inn Express to protest their opposition to the shelter.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.