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Civic groups, pols to protest homeless policies at City Hall

Protestors from the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force rally in Brooklyn as the homless issue sparks more anger in other parts of Queens.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf
By Bill Parry

While members of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force protested in solidarity with civic groups in Sunset Park, Brooklyn Saturday, where several homeless shelters have opened, anger spread to the Rockaway Peninsula where the city is now renting rooms at the Playland Motel to house homeless families.

More than 100 angry Rockaway residents gathered Sunday at a Knights of Columbus Hall to hear City Councilman Eric Ulrich (D-Ozone Park), who denounced the city’s move.

“Instead of fulfilling his pledge to end the use of hotels to shelter people who have fallen on hard times, Mayor de Blasio quietly signed a deal to use Playland Motel in Rockaway Beach as a homeless facility. I am outraged. My constituents – and all New Yorkers – deserve better,” Ulrich said. “Mayor de Blasio’s so-called progressive agenda has caused the homeless population to skyrocket. The time has come for this administration to put forth real and meaningful solutions that will actually help people find permanent housing and rebuild their lives. The Playland Motel is not the right answer.”

The boutique motel, located just a block from the surf on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, is closing Nov. 1. The city Department of Homeless Services said it has rented rooms for homeless families.

“There are no plans to convert this location into a shelter,” DHS spokeswoman Lauren Gray said. “We are currently renting rooms at this location to help meet our legal and moral obligation to shelter homeless families with children.”

On Monday, Ulrich announced he was organizing a public demonstration on the steps of City Hall to protest Mayor de Blasio’s failed homeless policies. The protest will take place Friday at 10 a.m. Community leaders and other elected officials are invited to attend.

“Since Mayor de Blasio took office, the homeless population in our city has skyrocketed to record levels,” Ulrich said. “Now more than ever, New Yorkers want real solutions that actually help people who have fallen on hard times. We demand a better plan.”

In Maspeth, where nightly protests have tripled since DHS moved 30 homeless men into the Holiday Inn Express Oct. 10, a civic leader who spearheaded the protests said the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force will be at the City Hall rally Friday.

“We’ve been talking with Ulrich about this since August,” Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holder said. “But I guess the Playland Motel moved him to go ahead and reserve the steps. We said we were going to go to City Hall and we’re going to bring our coalition of civic organizations with us with our message that putting homeless in hotels is bad policy.”

After Saturday’s protest in Sunset Park, the two rented buses took the Maspeth protesters to Windsor Park, where they protested outside the home of Human Resources Commissioner Steven Banks for the second time. It is not known if the man who oversees DHS was home, according to Holden.

On Monday morning there was word of another possible conversion of a hotel into a homeless shelter, this time in East Elmhurst.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst) said the Courtyard by Marriott, located at 90-10 Ditmars Blvd., has been earmarked by DHS to potentially house a population of up to 60 homeless single men.

Last month, the same three lawmakers learned that DHS had been renting rooms at the Holiday Inn Express at 113-10 Horace Harding Expressway. In both cases, DHS had failed to inform both elected officials and community members of their plans.

“While our communities remain very sympathetic to the ongoing issue of homelessness in New York, it is true that we have already carried our fair share of this problem by hosting no less that five shelters in our neighborhoods,” they said in a joint statement. “We will fiercely continue in our opposition to additional shelter facilities within the area. Simply put, DHS must work to solve the pervasive issues of homelessness through ongoing dialogue with affected communities and their elected officials. Continued unilateral action by DHS fails to provide any measure of a meaningful framework for a long-term solution to these problems.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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