Lawsuit could end Maspeth uprising over city’s shelter plan

Lawsuit could end Maspeth uprising over city’s shelter plan
Photo by Michael Shain
By Bill Parry

The group of protesters who have spent the last several months fighting the city’s efforts to convert a Maspeth hotel into a homeless shelter are hopeful that a lawsuit filed in Queens Supreme Court will finally put an end to a saga that began in early August. The holding company that owns the land on which the Holiday Inn Express on 55th Road was built is suing the hotel’s operator, Harshad Patel, for violating the terms of his lease.

“It’s great news — exactly what we’ve been hoping for and we hope they’re successful,” Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden said. “The owner had indicated they weren’t very happy because they own other properties in the area and it’s not good for business or property values. We’re hoping this lawsuit puts an end to the Holiday Inn Express as a shelter.”

Brooklyn-based KCM Realty Corp. denied Patel’s “plan to sublease the existing hotel to a third party, who would convert the hotel into an adult homeless shelter pursuant to an agreement with the New York City Department of Homeless Services,” the lawsuit says. KCM responded that under the terms of the lease, Patel’s New Ram company was permitted to use the premises only for “the erection, operation and maintenance of a hotel” and a proposed conversion violated restrictions of the lease.

Patel called Holden saying he no longer wanted to go against the wishes of the community and asked that they stop their nightly protests at the 55th Road location. But in early October, Patel rented individual rooms to the city and DHS began moving 30 homeless men into the hotel.

Weeks later, KCM filed suit, asking a judge to block more homeless individuals from moving into the Holiday Inn Express and to rule New Ram was in violation of its lease.

“The potential profit to New Ram must have been too great to turn down because in blatant disregard of the terms of its lease and in contradiction to its representations to the community, New Ram has begun the conversion of the hotel to a homeless shelter, surreptitiously renting over a quarter of the hotel’s rooms to DHS to house homeless adults,” the lawsuit says.

If the lawsuit succeeds, KCM can terminate the lease on the property.

DHS declined to comment on the matter.

Asked for comment, Patel said, “I see the landlord is suing me for something that is not true.”

Meanwhile, Holden, who was considering a slander lawsuit against the de Blasio administration, may put that on hold.

“We could win this war without firing a shot,” he said. “It’s very good for our side and we hope the owner is successful.”

Holden said the protesters, known as the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force, had scaled back the nightly protests at the hotel because it was disturbing the paying customers. During the last several months, the protesters have rented road buses to rally with other civic groups protesting in other neighborhoods and they have gone to the Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, home of Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, who oversees DHS.

“We’re going to take it on the road a lot more,” Holden said. “We’re heading to Commissioner Banks’ house on Saturday with all of the other organizations we’ve become involved with and we’ll have people from within the shelters joining us as well.”

He added, “And we’ll be going back to Patel’s house again, soon.”

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