The city has reportedly begun housing homeless people at a Maspeth hotel, but it has abandoned plans to convert the hotel into a homeless shelter.
Gothamist reported on Monday that the Department of Homeless Services began moving in 30 homeless men into the Holiday Inn Express located on 55th Road. Since early August, Maspeth residents have protested plans to convert the hotel into a shelter for up to 110 homeless adults.
But DHS spokesperson Lauren Gray was quoted as saying that those plans were shelved as a result of the opposition from local residents who have relentlessly fought the proposal for the past two months. Opponents say, in part, that the city’s policy of placing large numbers of homeless residents into hotels was inhumane, and that other ideas should be considered in addressing the ongoing homelessness crisis.
They’ve held a nightly picket outside the Holiday Inn, marched through the community, crashed a meeting between elected officials and shelter representatives at a local restaurant, protested outside other homeless shelters in eastern Queens, and even boisterously protested outside the Brooklyn home of Human Resources Commissioner Steven Banks.
“Due to local opposition to housing homeless New Yorkers, we have not been able to convert this site into a full shelter at this time,” Gray was quoted in the Gothamist report. “We are renting rooms for employed single adults and providing onsite services and security.”
Shelter opponents, however, did not consider this a victory. Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, reportedly criticized the city for moving homeless residents into the hotel unannounced and on a holiday.
The city also did not provide prior notice to the community in housing the homeless at other hotels in Queens including the Pan American hotel in Elmhurst (now a full-time homeless shelter), a Quality Inn in Woodside and a Holiday Inn in Corona.
Holden hinted that the introduction of homeless residents to the Maspeth Holiday Inn is a precursor to the hotel’s eventual conversion into a shelter.
“It will be a shelter. They can’t lose,” Holden told Gothamist. “So when they do make it a full-blown shelter, we’ll do what we said we were going to do: we’ll bring out a thousand people.”
The announcement came days after the DHS informed elected officials in east Queens that it would stop using two hotels in Bellerose as homeless shelters. Those hotels are owned by Harshad Patel, who also owns the Maspeth Holiday Inn; Patel said back in August he was withdrawing support of the shelter plan.
This is a developing story; check back with QNS for further details.