By Bill Parry
The city has postponed the Oct. 1 opening for the homeless shelter in Maspeth, according to state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth).
After phone conversations with Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday and with Human Resources Administration Commissioner Stephen Banks, who oversees the Department of Homeless Services, Wednesday afternoon, Markey said the city will not move forward with the original date. She said City Hall will continue to evaluate the plan and the program to convert the Holiday Inn Express on 55th Road.
“This postponement gives us the opportunity to continue to bring pressure on the city to change its plan for Maspeth,” Markey said. “With Community Board 5’s review still underway, we still have not seen answers to our continuing concerns about the location of the facility, the track record of the proposed provider and details about the financial arrangement between the city, Acacia Network and the hotel owner.”
Markey was booed during last week’s CB5 public hearing at the Knockdown Center even after it was announced that she had joined Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) in filing a lawsuit against the city to stop the opening of the shelter because it violates several city administrative codes.
Markey had reached out to City Comptroller Scott Stringer shortly after the shelter proposal surfaced last month to ask for his help in examining the proposal. The outreach resulted in a meeting with Stringer and elected and civic leaders. At the time he explained his role in reviewing a contract for the facility once it was submitted. As of Wednesday Stringer has yet to receive a contract for the proposed facility.
“This is just political theater,” said Brian Barnwell, Markey’s opponent in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. “Look, the comptroller hasn’t received the paperwork, so there’s no way they can move people in on Oct. 1. This is just Markey taking a victory lap.”
The Department of Homeless Services confirmed the delay.
“As we announced at two community forums, we are continuing to review the proposal, and the start date will be determined as a result of the review,” DHS spokeswomanLauren Gray said.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who marched with protestors in Maspeth Aug. 27, is calling for a federal probe into the owner of the Holiday Inn Express, Mayor Bill de Blasio and DHS to make sure there is “no illegal activity taking place.” In a letter, he asked Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to investigate the deal because motel owner Harshad Patel was involved in a 2011 bribery scandal.
“I recently learned that five years ago, Mr. Patel openly admitted to paying a former state elected official more than $20,000 to get that official to effect a zoning change in his favor,” Avella wrote in his letter to Bharara. “I ask that you investigate this situation to ensure there is no illegal activity taking place with respect to the Holiday Inn Express, or any other hotels owned by Mr. Patel.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr