As the homeless debate rages on in Blissville, it has become clear the city has taken advantage of the small Queens town.
Neighborhood residents rallied Monday and Tuesday to protest the city’s plan to house a third shelter in a seven-block area. The city Department of Homeless Services announced it will move 154 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 fewer than 475 permanent residents.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) joined the protest, while fellow U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) have also spoken out against the city.
Blissville has graciously supported the first two homeless shelters that were placed in the neighborhood. But with a third coming this spring, the residents have a right to question why the city continues to use their neighborhood despite their concerns, which have been voiced to DHS.
This week’s protest comes after DHS quietly moved 54 homeless families into the City View Inn on Greenpoint Avenue last July before suddenly transferring the families to other shelters in January to make way for homeless men.
Blissville residents heard about the move at a community board meeting rather than from DHS, which issued a public apology for a miscommunication about the timing of the move. DHS did announce, however, that the City View Inn would once again shelter homeless families by late summer.
And still, despite their battle with the DHS, Blissville residents — through the newly formed Blissville Civic Association — said they will welcome the families back, even though they believe the neighborhood is not suitable for them. The civic pointed out that the shelters are not close to basic services such as Laundromats, grocery stores, or libraries because Blissville does not have any.
The city is choosing to use Blissville despite the small town’s lack of resources, making it much more difficult for the neighborhood residents to go through their everyday lives. The homeless population will soon outnumber the existing residents in Blissville, who should be applauded for accepting the newcomers in their neighborhood. There must be a limit as to how many homeless people can be sheltered in such a small neighborhood.
It’s clear the breaking point has been reached in Blissville, and there needs to be a compromise between the town and the DHS and the city to find a better solution. Without one, Blissville residents may lose their neighborhood.