By Bill Parry
The city has approved a long-term deal to keep the homeless shelter at the former Pan American hotel in Elmhurst operating for six more years. City Comptroller Scott Stringer registered the $66.2 million contract between the city’s Department of Homeless Services and operator Samaritan Village to keep the Boulevard Family Residence home to 198 families.
“As is the case with every contract, we do our due diligence and review it pursuant to our charter mandate. We did exactly that with the Pan Am contract,” Stringer spokesman Tyrone Stevens said. “Under the charter, the comptroller may only reject a contract for the following reasons: evidence of possible corruption in the contracting process or on the part of the vendor; a debarred contractor; insufficient funds to pay for the contract, or no certification from the mayor and Corp Counsel that the contract is legally and procedurally proper. We did not find cause, under our mandate, to reject this contract.”
The deal drew the ire of the civic organization Elmhurst United, which released a statement saying, “Under the recently expired $23.9 million Pan Am agreement, Samaritan Village was contractually obligated to install a kitchen in each unit, a daycare center and operate in accordance with New York State Tier II rules and regulations. Despite failing to meet any of these provisions, Comptroller Stringer authorized full payment of the contract.”
DHS said the kitchen installation was to get underway this month with 100 units expected to be completed within a year and the remainder completed by 2019.
“With the long-term contract approved, funding is now in place which will allow us to move forward with the installation of the kitchens,” a Samaritan Village spokeswoman said. “The child-care space will be completed by the end of September.”
“Nonprofit partners like Samaritan Village play a crucial role in our citywide effort to address the challenges of homelessness, which affects every community across the five boroughs,” DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said. “Under this administration, Samaritan Village has successfully helped over 3,600 households transition out of shelter across the five boroughs, including nearly 400 households from this location alone. In addition to providing our homeless neighbors with the social services that will help them get back on their feet, including case management, housing placement assistance, and employment counseling, Samaritan Village is currently installing kitchens in every room and connecting families with licensed childcare opportunities in the community pending the opening of childcare at this location to ensure our clients have the on-site services they deserve as they stabilize their lives.”
State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), who represents the area of Elmhurst where the shelter is located, would prefer more transparency from the DHS and Samaritan Village.
“There are many unanswered questions about the Pan Am shelter that I and the community have been asking for quite some time now,” she said. “This project has been handled so poorly and those who bear the brunt of it, the shelter residents and the surrounding community, have been frustrated by the process. I myself have submitted a FOIL to see why there are still no kitchens. I was promised the materials by July 12, but am still waiting. While it has always been my belief that the solution to the homeless epidemic is affordable housing, we must ensure existing shelters are up to code, the necessary services for the residents are provided and the promises that are made are kept. Unfortunately, we’ve seen none of that from the shelter’s very beginning.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr