Despite delayed opening, the fight against the Maspeth homeless shelter is far from over, local politician warns

Holiday Inn Barnwell
Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Express. Inset courtesy Brian Barnwell

It’s a step forward, but not an outright victory.

That was a reminder one aspiring lawmaker gave regarding the news late on Wednesday afternoon that the city has agreed to delay the opening of the homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn Express on 55th Road in Maspeth from Oct. 1 to a later date.

Brian Barnwell, who will challenge Assemblywoman Margaret Markey for her seat in the 30th District in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 13, encouraged residents to continue the fight against the homeless shelter because nothing is won as of yet.

“I am encouraged by the city’s decision to postpone the opening of the shelter,” Barnwell said. “They listened to thousands of residents who stood up against Mayor de Blasio’s radical transformation of our neighborhoods. However, we need to continue to put pressure on our elected officials, because nothing about [Wednesday’s] decision implies that the shelter will not open eventually.”

Barnwell, however, believes that Markey’s announcement of the shelter’s delayed opening was little more than a political stunt.

In her statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Markey said she spoke with de Blasio and Department of Homeless Service’s Commissioner Steve Banks, and following those conversations, the opening date was delayed. But Barnwell thinks the delay came because of another reason.

During the Aug. 31 public hearing on the shelter hosted by Community Board 5 (CB 5), Barnwell asked Banks if Comptroller Scott Stringer had seen and signed a contract for the shelter. Banks answered that he had not.

“If there was no signed contract, then how could the shelter open in less than a month, anyway? These things take time to plan. The fact the comptroller didn’t receive the paperwork is the true reason this shelter has been postponed, not an alleged phone call,” Barnwell said. “We can’t be distracted by these kind of games that politicians play. They need to be held accountable. We can’t take our victory lap until it is all over.”