By Naeisha Rose
Confusion over vague reports about a new development coming to Hollis took center stage at the Community Board 12 meeting Tuesday.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (St. Albans) attended the monthly meeting on a panel with officers from the 103rd and 113th precincts, representatives for other elected officials, and members of the Hollis Local Development Corporation, an organization developed to better the Hollis area.
Problems first emerged in December 2015 when many in the area believed the southeast Queens region was going to be saddled with more homeless shelters in six buildings from 202-02 to 202-24 Hollis Ave. Out of the 22 homeless shelters in Queens, 10 are in southeast Queens, according to the city Department of Homeless Services.
It turned out the buildings that were erected in the area, however, are permanent, supportive affordable housing, according to HRA Deputy Commissioner David Neustadt, although some but not all of the residents are indeed veterans with mental and physical disabilities. Either way residents were upset that they were not notified about the development before the land was purchased.
Some longtime denizens don’t have problems with veterans or those struggling financially, but they just want people to be more cordial and to find ways to address whatever issues they might have without engaging in illegal activities.
“We do welcome all and everyone who are new to the community. But if you sold drugs, prostituted, loitered and whatever you did, I’m going to call the cops and make a complaint about you,” said longtime resident Renee Woodberry.
Adding to residents’ concerns is a new development headed to their neighborhood, which has prompted state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) to bring a bill to Albany to require developers to disclose their plans to the community.
Residents were disappointed that Comrie was not present. But his representative, Amir Abbady, was there to set the record straight that Comrie is actually working on preventing a second development, which the residents know little about and others like it from coming to the area without the public’s approval.
“On the state level a lot of the legislation that is causing the root of the problem needs to be addressed,” Abbady said. “Equity, transparency are things that are set into law that need to be fixed and that is why the senator is in Albany. We want a more transparent process when it comes to supportive housing and shelters in our neighborhoods.”
Comrie’s bill asks for “review and approval of all new facilities” and to have “restrictions” on the placement of “social service facilities,” according to the senator’s office. His second bill asks for “the commissioner of mental health to issue a review and report regarding certain facilities” and to “review all proposals by an agency to provide new services at a new facility.”
Both of Comrie’s bills have the support of state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).
Miller raised the possibility of severing the contract with HELP USA, the organization responsible for wellness and adult services for veterans living at the current housing.
“I’m very disappointed that HRA, who contracted this and HELP USA is not here,” Miller said. “These agency partners are not here, but the community partners are here. These agencies are paramount to the development here – if they do not have the capacity to help, it might be time to end the contract,” he added.
Many of the residents clapped in agreement with Miller.
A representative of HELP USA was hidden in the middle of the crowd as he took notes during the event, instead of being on the panel,. When he announced himself, the crowd booed.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose