By Gina Martinez
Area lawmakers and community members were shocked to learn that an Ozone Park hotel has been used as a homeless shelter for months without any notification from the city.
Around 50 homeless families have been housed in the Comfort Inn at 137-30 Redding St. since October. The hotel is one block away from Robert H. Goddard Junior High School 202.
The Department of Homeless Services confirmed that the city had placed homeless families at the hotel.
“We are currently using some rooms in this location to shelter homeless families with children who would otherwise be turned out onto the street,” said agency spokeswoman Lauren Gray. “We are using hotels as a bridge to shelter homeless New Yorkers while we work to increase shelter capacity citywide.”
In a joint statement, City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R–Ozone Park), state Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D–Rockaway Park) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach) scolded the mayor’s office for not notifying the community.
“Mayor de Blasio’s failed policy of housing homeless families in hotels is simply unacceptable,” they said. “These types of shelters are not cost-effective and do not offer any real services that actually help homeless families get back on their feet. To add insult to injury, the administration did not notify any of the elected officials in the area that 50 families are being housed at the Comfort Inn in Ozone Park. We will work closely with the 106th Precinct to protect the quality of life for all those who live in the vicinity of the hotel.”
Queens has been the epicenter of the homeless shelter controversy, beginning back in October when word got out that the city planned to house 220 families in a Maspeth Holiday Inn Express without consulting residents. Several town hall meetings drew overflow crowds and residents protested through the night, even going so far as to picket outside the Brooklyn home of Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks.
In November, Ozone Park residents had a rowdy town hall meeting where residents protested a proposed 100-32 Atlantic Ave. transitional home 250 feet away from the High School for Construction, Trades, Engineering and Architecture. Attendees argued that the quality of life in the neighborhood would drop and the homeless threatened the safety of the students.
There have been some reports of drug use and garbage around the hotel in Ozone Park, but Maria Lopez lives a block away from the Comfort Inn and said she has not noticed any disruptions.
“I always pass by and everything is quiet and nice,” she said. “I haven’t noticed anything. It’s a quiet neighborhood. If there are homeless people living there, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart