By Gina Martinez
On a rainy Sunday afternoon with the controversial Maspeth Holiday Inn as the backdrop, state Sen. Tony Avella (D- Bayside) announced his run for mayor. The location was no coincidence.
In his announcement tackling the homeless crisis was one of Avella’s major platforms, and most of the nearly 100 supporters were protesters from Queens who opposed the conversion of hotels into shelters.
In his speech Avella said he plans on combating homelessness by making New York City more affordable to live in. There are currently 60,000 homeless people throughout the city.
The Maspeth Holiday Inn has become the epicenter of New York’s homeless conversation. De Blasio had planned on housing 220 families in the hotel in October without consulting residents and in retaliation Maspeth residents have held town hall meetings and protested every day until recently, even taking buses packed with protestors to the home of Steven Banks, commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, in Brooklyn. There are currently 78 homeless men staying at the 55th Road hotel.
“I believe we have reached a crossroad in the direction our city should be taking,” Avella said. “Under Mayor de Blasio we have more homeless than ever – our taxes continue to rise and it is more expensive to live here than ever before, all of this, while our quality of life fades away. I believe it is time for a change. It is time to eliminate the corruption at City Hall where campaign consultants/lobbyists sit at the table. It is time for the people of this city to be at the table. It is time to stop dumping homeless families and individuals in hotels and motels throughout the city without support services and the prospect of stable long-term housing and without community notification or involvement. It is time to make New York City more affordable to live, so families can thrive and senior citizens can afford to retire in the city they helped build.”
Avella also said he would adopt the 2 percent property tax cap, properly fund school capital and expense projects so that students have up-to-date technology, and give communities a bigger say in what happens in their neighborhoods as opposed to de Blasio’s “top down planning approach”
Miley Wang, a resident of Elmhurst for 30 years, said she supported Avella because of his support for the Pan Am hotel protesters years ago. Avella was a vocal opponent of the Elmhurst hotel being used as a shelter.
“I’m here because he’s been very supportive of Elmhurst, even though he’s not part of that area,” Wang said “He’s able to do the right thing and bring communities together instead of dividing and conquering. People need help and he’s bringing awareness that these hotels are not a good place for people to live. So much money goes towards housing these families in small rooms, while the money could be spent in better ways and help find actual housing.”
Nancy Telesca, a retired teacher who has lived in Maspeth for 40 years, is also backing Avella for his stance on the homeless shelter crisis.
“I’ve been here picketing this Holiday Inn since August, when we found out they were going to turn this into a shelter without really giving us a say in the community,” she said, “Bob Holden, Anthony Nunziato, Brian Barnwell, we all come here. We’re not against the homeless people, we’re against Mayor de Blasio’s policies because he’s not doing anything the right way to help people. We have been picketing every night. Someone called me to say Tony Avella has been very instrumental, he’s been with us all along whereas our own people, you know (City Councilwoman Elizabeth) Crowley and them aren’t. So I’m supporting him because I feel that he will do a much better job than Mayor de Blasio, I’m very sorry, but I have no great love for him or his polices, and I do want to see a change.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart