Blissville residents speak out against homeless shelters in neighborhood

Blissville residents speak out against homeless shelters in neighborhood
Photo by Bill Parry
By Bill Parry

As the city prepares to convert a second hotel into a temporary shelter for the homeless in the Blissville section of Long Island City, the Department of Homeless Services is organizing a public hearing focused on the new borough-based facility at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott.

With DHS already operating a shelter two blocks away at the City View Inn on Greenpoint Avenue, and a third operating at the former Best Western hotel on the border with Sunnyside, the agency wanted to open a dialogue with the community.

“Every neighborhood across New York City has a part to play in addressing this citywide challenge,” DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said. “We remain committed to open, ongoing engagement with the community and look forward to discussing how we can most effectively work together to support New Yorkers in need as they get back on their feet.”

If Feb. 28 Community Board 2 monthly meeting was an indication, DHS representatives should be prepared for a long evening. Blissville residents dominated the public comments section of the meeting, describing their neighborhood as too small and isolated to handle the burden of two shelters with a third close by. The neighborhood is primarily industrial with fewer than 500 residents and they are feeling overwhelmed.

“I feel three hotels in Blissville is just too much,” Blissville resident Barry Druss said. “Blissville is a small community. It’s isolated. We can’t be dominated by all this homelessness. I’m sorry, the fear factor is just too high.”

Erika Clooney worked at the Bantry Bay Publick House for 12 years before investing her family’s life savings to buy into the popular restaurant’s ownership team during the summer. Bantry Bay is next door to the City View in which the city was housing 54 families until January, when the families were transferred out to make room for homeless single men.

“I have absolutely no problem with families next door to our facility, but over the course of the last six weeks the demeanor of my business and my neighborhood has completely changed,” she said.

Clooney spoke of an unsettling event that happened recently when two men she claimed were from the City View entered the bar area, asked for two beers and fled without paying.

“What I’m afraid of right now, I’ve never had to have a thought to have a buzzer on my door — that looks really bad,” Clooney said. “My husband and my life savings is in this. The city has just come in with one swift brush and now could completely blow out my future.”

Her business model was further harmed with the conversion at the Fairfield Inn as the hotel has stopped booking guests.

“I get most of our night business from the Marriott hotel,” she said. “We have a lot of tourists, a lot of local businessmen, a lot of people working construction on those bridges that are staying every night and they come to our restaurant.”

The DHS public hearing will take place on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Raphael’s Church located at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave.

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