Residents from East Elmhurst, Corona, Elmhurst and Maspeth held up signs and shouted “no more shelters.” The East Elmhurst Corona Alliance organized the rally.
The Courtyard Marriott, located at 90-10 Ditmars Blvd., is a 288-room hotel near La Guardia Airport. Opponents argue that the neighborhood is already flooded with homeless shelters. Some hotels being used as shelters in the area include The Westway Hotel, Pan American Hotel and the Holiday Inn Express in Corona.
In September, state Senator Jose Peralta announced that the Department of Homeless Services started housing homeless families in the Holiday Inn Express at 113-10 Horace Harding Expwy. without notifying elected officials or Corona residents.
“We are being oversaturated in East Elmhurst and Corona,” said Talea Wufka, member of the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance. “We do not have the supply and demand, although we sympathize and empathize with the homeless. We cannot afford to house it all here. We have enough shelters as is.”
In a meeting with the Queens borough president this month, DHS Commissioner Steve Banks said the agency is focusing on getting rid of cluster sites before before phasing out the use of hotels as shelters.
Peralta voiced his opposition to the Couryard Marriott plan last week, saying that these communities have “already carried our fair share of this problem by hosting no less than five shelters in our neighborhoods.”
Doreen Lucero, director of sales at the hotel, told QNS that the Department of Homeless Services never reached out to the hotel about renting rooms.
“One hundred percent that it is not the plan,” Lucero said. “We have no intentions to rent rooms to DHS. Hearing the story and concerns were surprising to us because we have no idea where they came from.”
She also added that the hotel upgraded the rooms in 2013 and just recently upgraded the meeting spaces.
“If they just did the meeting rooms, why would they put money into something that would maybe not make [the hotel] as valuable?” she said.
Lauren Gray, a spokesperson for DHS, said the agency has no plans to rent rooms or convert the hotel.
“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,” 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.”
It is unclear how the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance heard about this plan. A spokesperson for Peralta said the senator was made aware by community members. The East Elmhurst Corona Association has not responded to emails as of press time.