By Bill Parry
Three lawmakers are warning Corona residents of a possible conversion of a Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter in their neighborhood.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Francisco (D-Jackson Heights) released a joint statement Wednesday after learning of the city maneuver.
“After reaching out to the Department of Homeless Services for several months, it has come to our attention that the Holiday Inn Express, located at 113-10 Horace Harding Expressway, has been housing homeless families for months,” they said. “The number of rooms being utilized for the purpose of housing the homeless has routinely exceeded 30 to 40 percent of the building’s capacity, and neither elected officials nor the community were notified. Although the community is extremely sympathetic to the homeless crisis, and we know that many are just a paycheck away from becoming homeless themselves, it is our hope that this hotel is not converted into a permanent homeless shelter.”
A receptionist at the Holiday Inn Express in Corona said she “cannot disclose any information about the hotel” and the manager was not available.
“The Department of Homeless Services is renting some rooms at this location to help meet its legal obligation to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers who would otherwise be sleeping on the street,” DHS spokeswoman Lauren Gray said. “There are currently no plans to convert this location into a homeless shelter, but New York City’s legal obligation to provide shelter to a rising number of homeless New Yorkers has created a need to open additional shelters and rent hotel rooms.”
The lawmakers aren’t buying it.
Last month a record 59,373 were in shelters and another 4,000 homeless slept in 46 motels, up from 1,000 in eight hotels in January 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“News that a permanent conversion may be taking place is especially troubling following the city’s failed attempt to convert the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth into a shelter this month,” Crowley, Peralta and Moya continued. “With five permanent homeless shelters already operating in this region of Queens, our communities have contributed more than their fair share to alleviate the homelessness crisis that we are facing in New York City.”
The future of the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth is muddled. Last week the owner, Harshad Patel, called Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden saying he no longer wanted to go against the wishes of the community and he was pulling out of a deal with the city. The city issued no official statement, but a source said negotiations were still happening.
Patel has not returned repeated calls for comment.
Meanwhile, the trio of lawmakers vowed to confront the de Blasio administration in Corona.
“We will fiercely fight any attempt by the city to convert yet another local facility into a shelter,” they said. “A successful effort to address the pervasive issue of homelessness starts with an open dialogue between DHS, elected officials, and community residents, not by forcing a neighborhood to take on additional burdens without first gathering meaningful input from those who are to be affected.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr