Maspeth residents protest proposed homeless shelter

Maspeth residents protest proposed homeless shelter
Photo by Michael Shain
By Gina Martinez

A new proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth has outraged residents and led to ongoing protests.

Hundreds of Maspeth residents and several lawmakers expressed their opposition to a 110-family homeless shelter during a raucous town hall meeting held Aug. 11. The meeting was coordinated by the civil group, COMET: Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, which are against the shelter.

The city has plans to turn the Holiday Inn Express, located at 59-40 55th Rd., into a 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. The Department of Homeless Services met with members of the Maspeth community to listen to community concerns about the proposed shelter.

CB 5 is planning to hold a public hearing on the shelter proposal Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth.

COMET President Roe Daraio has organized a weeklong protest after a number of people marched to the Holiday Inn when the town hall ended. Dozens of Maspeth residents continue to hold signs and protest in front of the Holiday Inn Express. On the association’s website Daraio wrote “This is our community and we all need to stick together! I know the weather has been brutal, but please try to come out and support your neighbors. This will be ongoing for the entire week.”

DHS has tried to explain its mission to Maspeth residents.

“New York City is legally obligated to provide shelter to any New Yorker who would otherwise be turned out onto the streets,” DHS said in a statement. “We have met with community leaders and participated in an open community forum to continue to build a constructive dialogue around this issue. Homelessness is a citywide challenge that requires a citywide response.”

The shelter would house 220 people. There are currently about 250 people in shelters who listed their most recent address as Community District 5 in Queens, according to DHS. It would take the homeless from around the city and other states.

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 Metro Motel at 73-00 Queens Blvd. in Woodside.

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