Queens community caught off guard by fast-tracked homeless shelter coming to Rego Park

Community members at the rally on Sunday
Photo courtesy of the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance

A Queens Community Board has expressed surprise over the rapid pace planned for the conversion to a homeless shelter for 100 single men, of the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Rego Park, noting a lack of adequate time to properly inform the local community.

Community Board 6, which represents the areas of Forest Hills and Rego Park, was first informed by the Department of Social Services (DSS) that the hotel located at 68-18 93rd St. would become a men’s homeless shelter in October 2023.

Long standing Rego Park resident and Chair of Community Board 6, Heather Beers-Dimitriadis said that learning this information last fall, is not enough time to inform the community about it and hear their concerns – considering that the shelter is due to be in place in March. 

She said that the board knew that the community would be getting a shelter but they were expecting it to be in place in late 2024. 

“When you’re notified that something like this is happening in four months, there is simply not enough time to discuss it with residents, however I do understand that the task at hand for the DSS is so large and they are moving as quickly as they can – unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of time to respond to this,” she said.

Dimitriadis added that the community board does not get to vote on whether they want the homeless shelter or not, which is why working with the DSS about the concerns of the community is so important. 

According to the DSS, it aims to evenly distribute homeless shelters across the city to alleviate the pressures of the homeless crisis and to not have one neighborhood overwhelmed with shelters. A DSS spokesperson said that Rego Park currently does not have shelter resources for the New York population experiencing homelessness.

“We are committed to ensuring that every community has the critical safety net resources to provide vital supports for their vulnerable neighbors, and this community has no shelters, so we look forward to bringing this high-quality transitional housing resource to the community,” Neha Sharma from the DSS said.  

“On-site services will include case management, individual and group counseling, permanency planning and housing placement assistance, referrals to medical and mental health services, support groups, independent living and life skills workshops, and residential services, vocational counseling, referral to job training, and support in finding and securing employment,” Sharma from the DSS said.

Despite this information from the DSS, Dimitriadis says that this is not enough. She also added that they have a structure on Queens Boulevard that is due to be used for homeless families in 2025, and that this would be very close to the new homeless shelter. 

“We have the building, but we don’t have the families yet. So then there could be two homeless services in close proximity to one another in the area,” she said.

Dimitriadis added that she and the community board remain hopeful that this new system will work and be more successful. 

Apprehension towards the homeless shelter was echoed by local community groups who took to the streets outside the hotel on Sunday Feb. 4 in a rally against the proposed shelter. 

Rego Park United and the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance rallied last weekend to voice their concerns about the lack of notice given to the community.

“Unfortunately, we have heard dozens of complaints about drug use, noise, fighting and crimes at shelters like the one planned here. We want to help people but this is too much. Now another single male homeless shelter near elementary schools is just senseless,” Ileana Martinez of the East Elmhurst Corona Alliance said.

Currently, the homeless shelter is due to be in place by the end of March 2024.