By Bill Parry
Several elected officials say they believe yet another hotel in Queens has been earmarked by the Department of Homeless Services to be partially converted into a shelter for the homeless.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst) said Monday they had learned that the Courtyard by Marriott, located at 90-10 Ditmars Blvd., has potentially been slated to house a population of up to 60 homeless single men, but City Hall refuted this.
“There are currently no plans to convert this hotel into a shelter or to temporarily rent rooms to help meet our legal and moral obligation to shelter homeless New Yorkers,” DHS spokeswoman Lauren Gray said. “We do have an open-ended RFP and are always looking to review strong proposals, but the Department of Homeless Services has not received a proposal for this location.”
The three leaders said that while their communities remain sympathetic to the ongoing issue of homelessness in New York, their neighborhoods already carry a fair share of the problem by hosting no less than five shelters, and that their experience with DHS brings the agencies credibility into question.
“When we reached out to DHS asking about the possible conversion of the Clarion Hotel into a homeless shelter, DHS also said there were currently no plans for that purpose,” Peralta said. “Two months later, the Clarion Hotel (in East Elmhurst) was transformed, changing its name to The Landing, and it opened a homeless shelter. Based on that record, how can I trust DHS?”
Last month, Peralta, Crowley and Moya became aware that DHS had been housing homeless families for months at a Holiday Inn Express in Corona. Again, there was no notice provided to elected or community leaders.
“Whether the Courtyard by Marriott will be yet another quietly placed shelter for the homeless remains to be seen, but my experience in my district has been that getting a straight answer on these matters has been hit or miss,” Moya said. “Homeless families and individuals deserve better than these conditions, and this community has already done its fair share to combat the rise of homelessness.”
Meanwhile, anger against DHS spread to the Rockaway peninsula where the city is now renting rooms at the Playland Motel to house homeless families.
More than 100 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.
“There are no plans to convert this location into a shelter,” Gray said. “We are currently renting rooms at this location to help meet our legal and moral obligation to shelter homeless families with children.”
Ulrich organized a public demonstration that was to take place on the steps of City Hall this Friday morning to protest what he called de Blasio’s failed homeless policies.
“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 would be at the City Hall.
“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.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr