Queens officials in College Point blast de Blasio and city for ‘far out of line’ homeless shelter spending

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Northeast Queens officials are seeking financial transparency from Mayor Bill de Blasio as the fight against the College Point shelter continues.

State Senator John Liu, Councilman Paul Vallone and Assemblyman Dan Rosenthal gathered in front of the proposed site at 127-03 20th Ave. on Feb. 14 and asked that the mayor disclose a full financial breakdown of the costs of the men’s shelter proposal.

At the Feb. 11 budget hearing in Albany, de Blasio ensured that the city is doing everything in its power to reduce costs to house the homeless population. According to the city’s budget director, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) budget is $2.1 billion, with $1.25 billion going toward sheltering 61,000 homeless individuals.

“That equates to roughly $20,000 for a homeless person being sheltered,” Liu said.

The lawmakers argued that the numbers reported by the city’s budget director did not add up to the numbers DHS reported back in December at a town hall meeting. DHS Commissioner Jackie Bray reported that the shelter project would cost about $9 million to house 200 homeless men each year. She said that the cost would cover housing each shelter resident in addition to shelter services, employee salaries, maintenance and transportation.

“That equates to $45,000 per bed. That is far out of line with the citywide average of $20,000, in fact, it’s more than double what the city’s paying,” said Liu.

“Once again, the city’s approach to the homelessness crisis falls short of the mark,” Rosenthal added. “Not only is the proposed College Point shelter an ill-advised decision for the community and our vulnerable populations, it is fiscally irresponsible.

But according to information from DHS, the cost to house the 200 homeless men would be far less than $45,000 a year. Rent for the property would be $2.8 million, which equals about $14,200 per person per year.

Since the beginning of the shelter conversation, opponents have criticized the building’s landlord David Levitan of Liberty One Group for his lack of transparency when filing the permits for the building. Vallone said that Levitan never used the word “shelter” and indicated that there were only going to renovate the inside of the building.

“The testimony this week from the mayor just further amplified the conversation we’ve been having as to our opposition to any owner making a sale for profit on the backs of communities,” said Vallone. “By David Levitan’s own admission, he profits about a thousand dollars per homeless person per month. It seems that business is good.”

The officials added that they would continue working with local civic and advocate groups including A Better College Point and the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association.

“The unity is there and we will help any of the groups,” said Vallone. “Any way you can oppose it, we’ll be there. There’s so many different branches of that opposition but we will help that opposition.”

QNS reached out to the mayor’s office and is waiting for a response.

Edits made on Feb. 15 to reflect information from DHS. 

More from Around New York