Blissville rallies call for city to walk back plan for third homeless shelter

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (c.) rallies with members of the Blissville Civic Association at Gracie Mansion against the city’s plan to site a third homeless shelter in a seven-block area of the isolated community.
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

Queens elected officials railed against the de Blasio administration’s plan to install a third homeless shelter in the small five-block community of Blissville this week, claiming the homeless will outnumber the permanent residents of the industrial section of Long Island City.

A letter written by the lawmakers to Mayor Bill de Blasio called for the city to rescind the plan to convert the Fairfield Inn at 52-34 Van Dam St. into a shelter as two rallies led by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) at City Hall Tuesday followed another led by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) at Gracie Mansion Monday.

“According to the Turning of the Tide on Homeless in NYC plan, all neighborhoods would be equally responsible for hosting homeless shelters. This is not the case in Blissville, The request for a third homeless in such close proximity to two existing ones oversteps reasonable limits,” the letter said. It was written by Van Bramer and Maloney signed onto the letter along with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood).

“We ask that you rescind plans for a new shelter at the Fairfield Inn and find another location that is more suitable for both the individuals that would live in the shelter, as well as the surrounding community.”

Department of Homeless Service Commissioner Steven Banks said the city was moving ahead with its plans for the shelter.

“The city and not-for-profit social service provider partner Home/Life are opening this facility as soon as possible to give adult families from Queens the opportunity to be closer to the communities they called home as they get back on their feet,” Banks said. “We are ensuring the building is ready for occupancy, finalizing all required reviews, and expect to open this facility this spring after all has been completed.”

The Fairfield Inn is slated to join the Sweet Home Suites on Hunters Point Avenue and the City View Inn on Greenpoint Avenue.

Maria Davis, vice president of the Blissville Civic Association, said the concern is not only the fact their community lacks simple services such as a Laundromat for the incoming homeless, but that it is also located nearly adjacent to the Newtown Creek superfund site.

The nearest hospital for people in the shelter is in Manhattan, which would be complicated for elderly homeless and those battling addiction, according to Davis.

“All three shelters together, there are over 500 individuals. We’re only like 450, if that. So the people in Sunnyside, if there’s a shelter they don’t even realize it because the population is so dense. We feel it immediately, we feel it right now,” Davis said at the Monday rally.

Van Bramer led the rally at City Hall, again calling for the de Blasio administration to dial back its effort to place homeless in the Blissville community.

“I and the people of Blissville have compassion and empathy for those who are experiencing homelessness, but the undue burden being placed on this neighborhood is creating profound difficulties,” Van Bramer said at the City Hall rally. “It is unfair and unwise to continue to site shelters in a small, isolated area that is lacking many basic services. The administration should realize that they have made a mistake and pull back from this plan.”

Nolan issued a statement tracking the broader deployment of shelters throughout western Queens, particularly Long Island City, which have been the scenes of protests in recent years.

“Queens, and in particular western Queens, has seen the Maspeth Holiday Inn, the Verve Hotel in Dutch Kills, the former Best Western Hotel in Sunnyside and now City View and the Fairfield Inn turned into homeless shelters over the past few years,” Nolan said. “Our community has always done our share, having been the location for the Borden Avenue men’s shelter in Long Island City for many years. Our community worked with the providers to help our veterans who were homeless. There has been oversaturation of our western Queens Neighborhoods, oftentimes without adequate notice, and we have had enough.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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