Queens Borough President and district attorney candidate Melinda Katz came out against the College Point shelter in a letter addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio. But some neighborhood residents wonder why she didn’t speak out sooner.
In the May 14 letter, Katz expressed her concerns about the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter plan for 127-03 20th Ave. She urged the mayor and DHS to “explore other potential locations” for the 200-bed men’s shelter.
“This location is simply deficient in the requisite resources and infrastructure necessary to help individuals stabilize their lives and regain sustainable dependance,” Katz wrote in the letter.
She cited a lack of transportation and health care services as well as the four nearby schools with “close to 3,000 children” as her top reasons against the shelter. She also mentioned that “while the aim of keeping homeless individuals closer to home is laudable, it remains unclear how many of the 200 individuals would actually be from Community District 7, let alone from Queens.
Members of A Better College Point Facebook group criticized Katz for her belated response to their “solutions not shelters” fight. One person claimed that the letter came after community members filed a lawsuit against the city and that Katz waited to publicize her concerns to coincide with her district attorney campaign.
“And she wants to march in our Memorial Day Parade to drum up votes because she’s running for Queens DA. We have been trying to get her to support the ‘solutions no shelters’ cause for months. She was invited to all our protests and never responded,” said Cathleen Shannon.
“Helping after the fact is lip service. Another one that knew what was going on,” said Damon Baumann.
But some, like Sal Pezzino, said that despite the timing, Katz’s support is a point in the community’s favor.
“Her support however gotten is still important and the letter seemed very strongly worded letter. The fact that every single one of our [representatives] now is against the shelter is a win,” said Pezzino.
The mayor’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan seeks to end the use of all 360 cluster and hotel sites citywide, including the ones in Queens. According to DHS, the borough would have the capacity to shelter approximately 5,300 homeless New Yorkers once these sites are closed.
“As we implement our borough-based approach, we are ending the use of all cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities citywide, including the two commercial hotel facilities in this Community District, and distributing new high-quality facilities more equitably across the five boroughs. This high-quality facility will offer 200 men from Queens the opportunity to be sheltered in their home borough, closer to their support networks and communities they called home as they get back on their feet,” said DHS.
In addition to Katz, Councilmen Paul Vallone and Dan Rosenthal and Senator John Liu have openly voiced their opposition to the shelter in letters and at community-organized rallies.
QNS reached out to Katz’s office, but representatives declined to comment for the story.
Read the full letter below.