By Jenna Bagcal
Tensions were through the roof at Wednesday night’s College Point Civic Association and Taxpayers meeting as residents expressed anger and fear over a proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood.
Nearly 200 people filled the room at the Poppenhusen Institute for the Nov. 28 meeting, which required tickets to count the number of attendees; dozens of residents found themselves waiting just outside the doors for the session.
Residents were joined by City Councilman Paul Vallone and neighbors in Whitestone who were given the opportunity to quiz Jackie Bray, the first deputy commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), about the plan. Bray shared information regarding the location at 127-03 20th Ave. and fielded the crowd’s questions.
According to Bray, the shelter would be a “general population shelter,” meaning that residents in the 200 single men’s shelter would not be men who are registered sex offenders or have substance abuse and mental health issues.
She said that those allowed to live in the shelter underwent an evaluation process, which involved assessing each individual to see where they should be placed. Before being placed in a shelter, men come from their intake center in Manhattan and placed in an assessment shelter where they are given a comprehensive background and mental health check.
“At that assessment shelter, we spend a full month determining what type of services that individual needs,” Bray said. “That’s when we do a psychological examination, that’s when we do a background check, it’s when we make decisions about what type of shelter that person needs.”
The DHS spokesperson added that the agency is not involved in selecting sites for the shelter. She said that process involves developers “working with landlords” and nonprofit organizations will then “propose the site to the city.”
With regards to safety, Bray said that there would be a “minimum” of 43 security guards and supervisors and at least 133 to 136 cameras on the outside.
But the uproarious crowd — which often burst into loud, disapproving shouts as Bray supplied information about the shelter — could not be convinced that it was right for their community.
“We take care of our own, we don’t need to take care of anybody else,” yelled one resident from the crowd.
“Put it somewhere else!” yelled another.
“This is my town, this is our town,” said a resident named David. “What you’re doing, to force people in, to teach them skills that they need — we have enough kids in this town and enough adults in this town that need that, that can help this community. You are gonna bring nothing but trouble to this town.”
Many residents cited concerns that have been expressed by many others in the community, including lack of essential services, inadequate means of transportation and the various elementary, middle and high schools in the community.
“I have a daughter who goes to Holy Cross, she takes the bus right down on 20th Avenue and 76th,” said one mother who was concerned about the population being so close to so many children.
Lawyer E. Christopher Murray, who has sued the city on behalf of Queens residents in areas such Glendale and Ozone Park opposed to homeless shelters in their communities, also attended the meeting. Murray said that he would be willing to litigate for the people of College Point as well.
At the end of the meeting, resident and protest organizer Jennifer Shannon encouraged attendees to come to the Dec. 2 protest at noon. According to fliers that Shannon handed out, the rally will be at 127th Street and 20th Avenue in College Point.
Shannon also shared that she and others were raising funds for residents to sue the city.