By Bill Parry
Calling the city’s plan to open a third shelter in a seven-block area of their isolated neighborhood “a threat to the very fabric of our community,” Blissville residents rallied outside the Mayor’s residence at Gracie Mansion Monday morning.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) joined the dozen protesters from the newly formed Blissville Civic Association as they voiced their opposition to the population imbalance that will occur this spring when the city Department of Homeless Services moves 154 adult homeless families into the Fairfield Inn by Marriott on Van Dam Street in the next few weeks, bringing the number of homeless to more than 550 in a neighborhood with less than 475 permanent residents.
“Homelessness is a huge problem in New York and every neighborhood is being asked to do their fair share,” Maloney said. “But Blissville is being asked to do more.”
Maria Davis, the vice president of the Blissville Civic Association, said the population imbalance would be more like a saturation.
“This is not fair share equity; it’s a reckless and dangerous plan,” she said.
The protesters claim they are not NIMBY — a common acronym for “not in my backyard,” — and accepted homeless families that were moved into the former Best Western hotel, now the Sweet Home Suites, near the Long Island Expressway in November. Weeks later, at a Community Board 2 meeting, they learned that DHS had quietly moved 54 homeless families into the City View Inn on Greenpoint Avenue in July before suddenly transferring the families to other shelters in January to make way for homeless men.
“Six months later they blindsided the families,” Davis said. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
DHS apologized publicly at the time for a miscommunication regarding the timing of the move, adding that it was forced to act due to a spike in the population of homeless men during the extremely cold winter and cannot house single adults and families with children at the same location. The agency announced Friday that the City View Inn would once again shelter homeless families by late summer.
“With additional high-quality borough-based facilities for single adults opening in the coming months, we will transition to providing shelter, services, and support to families with children at this location ahead of the seasonal summer increase in families seeking shelter before the next school year,” Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said.
The Blissville residents say they will welcome the families back, but that the neighborhood is still not suitable for them.
“They don’t mention that the City View is still one mile or so from laundromats, supermarkets, playgrounds, libraries and other community resources because Blissville has none,” Blissville Civic Association member Warren Davis said. “What we do have here are scrap yards, waste stations, a cemetery, polluted Newtown Creek and many warehouses.”
The organization said it would protest the de Blasio administration’s plan Tuesday on the steps of City Hall beginning at noon.
Additional reporting by Mark Hallum.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr