By Bill Parry
The city said it has been housing homeless families at a hotel in Long Island City less than a half mile from the Best Western hotel in Sunnyside since July.
Officials from the city’s Department of Homeless Services disclosed the information during a raucous Community Board 2 meeting Oct. 5 while answering questions about the use of the Best Western at 38-05 Hunters Point Blvd.
DHS has reserved and is using 48 out of 71 rooms at the City View Inn, a hotel located at 33-17 Greenpoint Ave. in the Blissville section of Long Island City.
“As the mayor has said, homeless New Yorkers come from every community in New York City,” DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said, “and as we phase out less-effective, haphazard, band-aid measures, once and for all, including commercial hotels, we are committed to ensuring that, over time, high quality shelters are distributed equitably to meet the need in all five boroughs.”
Community Board 2 is now home to three hotels that DHS is using to house homeless families. The agency began renting about half of the 72 rooms at the Quality Inn located at 53-05 Queens Blvd. just over a year ago.
During the meeting, Amanda Nasner, the Queens director for DHS, said that 416 homeless individuals are now being housed in Community Board 2 and that 260 homeless people who are in the citywide shelter system come from CB2. In his remarks to CB2, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) called the system broken and absurd that DHS can take over a commercial hotel without engaging the community first.
“I’m calling on the mayor to end this unfair practice of warehousing homeless families without any community input,” Van Bramer said. “This is not a coherent strategy, and it is not a plan to address homelessness. Further, our community now houses more homeless individuals than it produces. The mayor has said those numbers should be aligned. So why do we keep converting hotels into shelters in an area already doing more than its fair share? It’s wrong and it must end. The mayor and Department of Homeless Services commissioner should come to our community and answer these questions directly from my constituents.”
As the CB 2 meeting erupted with shouts from the audience, CB 2 Chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith tried to keep order with her gavel. She finally stepped between two DHS officials and took the microphone.
“Just to let everyone know on the board: We are planning to meet with our elected officials, community board and DHS to hash out all of these issues and address your concerns and see what the best process is moving forward,” she said. “Clearly it’s not working right now.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr