This time, it’s personal.
Opponents of the proposed homeless shelter at the Holiday Inn Express on 55th Road in Maspeth took their fight to the streets of Brooklyn on Thursday night, bringing their fury right to the doorstep of Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks.
Over 150 people hopped on three buses and traveled from the proposed shelter site into Windsor Terrace on Sept. 15 to let the city know they will not stand for a shelter in their neighborhood. Banks represented the city at two public meetings on the shelter last month, explaining the shelter was necessary in order for the city to meet its legal requirements to provide shelter to anyone who needs it.
It was unclear if Banks was home Thursday to hear the whistles, air horns and angry chants of “Banks gotta go” and “No homeless shelter.”
Many of his neighbors were home, however, and came out to see what all the commotion was about.
One resident, who requested to have her name withheld, was irate with the protesters, telling them to go protest outside of Gracie Mansion, where Mayor Bill de Blasio lives, instead of on a private residential street where over 40 families live and where there are children who have school the next day.
Not all residents were upset with the protesters. John Scarimbolo, who has lived on Windsor Terrace since 1991 said he understands the protesters’ anger and that they have every right to assemble and peacefully protest.
“Partly I sympathize with the people who are protesting,” Scarimbolo said. “I understand that no one wants a homeless shelter in their backyard, apparently they’re saying they have five homeless shelters in their backyard and they don’t want another one. I can sympathize with that.”
Scarimbolo also noted that he was not bothered by the protest, but if it became on ongoing situation, he may become upset with the disturbance.
“It’s part of democracy,” Scarimbolo said. “I mean I see right and wrong on both sides … part of it I think represents that people’s voice isn’t being heard. It’s the same way people are voting for [Donald] Trump, or supporting Trump because their voice isn’t heard. Or Black Lives Matter, people’s voice isn’t being heard.”
Michael Locascio, a Maspeth resident, took to the megaphone to explain to the other residents of the block exactly why they were there protesting on their block.
“[Banks] lied to us. He’s putting people in hotels like cattle,” Locascio said. “He’s giving them not proper facilities to live in, no proper facilities to get back into the community, and we’re here to let him know that we are not against homeless people, we have a definite problem with the way he is treating us and the homeless people. And we are going to be here until that man understands that we’re not going to tolerate it.”
The protest continued for nearly an hour before they called it a night and headed back to Maspeth on the buses. Protesters guaranteed Banks that they will be back again to continue protesting in front of his home.
The fate of the shelter is still unknown, since the Holiday Inn Express owner, Harshard Patel, said he was backing out of a deal with the city to change his hotel into a shelter, but no official word has come from the city. The homeless shelter, however, was recently opposed by Community Board 5 (CB 5), which voted 33-4 recommending the denial of the shelter.
This morning, Mayor de Blasio addressed the protests in the weekly #AskTheMayor call-in with the WNYC. He accused the protesters of being NIMBY and invited them to come to protest at Gracie Mansion instead.
“If you have a problem, come to my home. Come to Gracie Mansion, you can protest all you want. Come to City Hall. But leave alone decent public servants who are just trying to give people a place to live,” the mayor said.