By Jenna Bagcal
The fight against a proposed College Point homeless shelter is heating up as residents are gearing up to sue the city.
Hundreds of residents from College Point and neighboring areas including Whitestone, Flushing and Bayside gathered for a protest Dec. 2 in front of the planned shelter at 127-03 20th Ave.
The rally was co-organized by Dany Chen, founder of the College Point Residents Coalition (CPRC), committee member Jennifer Shannon and area residents Rex Lam, Elizabeth Cuccia and Kathleen Shannon.
“There is no hospital here. There’s five schools around here. How could we let this thing happen?” Chen asked the crowd.
City Councilman Paul Vallone, who has been vocal with his opposition to the shelter, said that the building’s owners were not transparent about their intentions when filing the property permits. The councilman said that the original permits from the Brooklyn-based owners of Liberty One Group, stated that the property was going to be “an office and furniture store.”
“They lied to us deliberately,” said Vallone. “David Levitan and Steve Werner sold out College Point for $12 million, $2,000 per homeless man. This isn’t about being about being a good humanitarian, this is about profit. They said it in the New York Times, ‘this is good business, this is good profit.’ Not here in College Point. We will fight every day every way we can to make sure this shelter does not open.”
Shannon urged those in attendance to donate money that would go toward taking legal action against the city.
“College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, whoever wants to get in with us, we are suing New York City. In order to sue New York City, we need money and I assure you the city’s not giving it to us. We need donations. We need you,” she said.
Shannon told attendees that the College Point Residents Coalition would be accepting checks and cash and that there would be “full transparency” about what the money would go toward, including the $10,000 retainer for a lawyer.
She addressed the criticism from those who have called College Point residents “heartless” for protesting the shelter and added that the community “actively” takes care of their homeless population.
“We feed them, some of them have come into our homes, we have found them shelter, we take care of them. We have begged them to stay in places where they would be safe and warm,” Shannon said. “Don’t tell us we don’t care because we do. So for all of you out there saying we don’t care: you don’t know us, don’t judge us.”
Residents from neighboring areas like Whitestone came out to protest in solidarity, including Alfredo Centola, the president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association.
“It’s all about profit. They don’t give a rat’s rear-end about homeless people because if they did, they would take the 26 acres in Willets Point, they would develop real affordable housing, they would develop real shelters,” Centola said. “They would develop [in] a community that could handle it.”
According to Vallone, there is an upcoming town hall meeting concerning the shelter to be held at PS 29 — located at 125-10 23rd Ave. — scheduled for Monday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m.