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File photo/QNS
File photo/QNS
A protest outside the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth in 2016, one of 24 hotels in Queens where homeless people now reside.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has drawn a line in the sand: the greater Ridgewood area represented by Community Board 5 (CB 5) is getting a homeless shelter, regardless of any opposition to one.

De Blasio made the statement twice last week: once during a town hall meeting in Brooklyn on Thursday, March 9, and confirmed his stance the following day in a radio interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

As part of the mayor’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City” plan, de Blasio wants to create homeless shelters in areas where there currently are none, and to place homeless people in shelters in neighborhoods they originated from.

According to de Blasio, there are 250 people currently in the shelter system that have come from CB 5, which encompasses Maspeth, Glendale, Ridgewood and Middle Village.

Maspeth went head-to-head with de Blasio and the Human Resources Administration (HRA) for nearly half of 2016, protesting the administration’s push to convert a Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter for adult men.

After months of protests, rallies and marches, de Blasio conceded to using only a portion of the hotel for homeless men.

“We are going to go back in to that community board, find the best possible location and create a new shelter,” de Blasio said during the radio interview. “We are happy to work with elected officials and community leaders to determine the best location if people want to work productively with us. Either way that community board needs to have shelter capacity. Two hundred and fifty people from that community board are in our shelter system. Is it fair to all other communities that those folks would be elsewhere? No.”

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) and member of the Maspeth Middle Village Task Force, is on board with the mayor’s new plan for keeping the homeless in the communities they come from — but has some doubts about the mayor’s motives.

“If Maspeth had in the Holiday Inn Express only people from Maspeth, who would oppose that? We wouldn’t be protesting if that was the case,” Holden said. “No neighborhood would be that cold-hearted to not help their own. When the mayor first said that every community should help, he wasn’t concerned with putting people from the communities in the shelters. Thanks to Maspeth, thanks to us, we got him to change his tune.”

Holden, however, is waiting to see if de Blasio actually follows through with this new plan.

“We don’t trust him because this is an election year so he could say anything,” he added. “You have to take everything with a grain of salt. You have to be skeptical of anything he says.”

CB 5 is gearing up to view any proposal sent their way by the de Blasio administration, and is willing to work together to find the best solution to the city’s growing homeless problem.

“We will look at their proposal when they have a proposal,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5. “I understand that unfortunately the homeless population is increasing. I believe the biggest reason for that is market forces, and that in portions of our community board, from what we know, people are getting pushed out of their apartments by new property owners who are looking for more rent for the apartment after they pay very high sums of money for the building.”

As part of the de Blasio’s new plan, Giordano would like to see the mayor provide more legal services for people at risk of being forced out of their homes. He also wants to see a move away from shelters, and an increase in putting people back into affordable housing, which would benefit taxpayers as well as the homeless.

When it comes to working with the city, Giordano is open to looking at several locations for smaller shelters, rather than one large shelter for 250 people.

“I think that a large shelter is not the way to house people, in my personal opinion,” he said. “We certainly would be willing to look at more reasonable solutions than the typical large shelter. A better solution would be to find apartments for people or at least to have more than one location that was considerably smaller than one that could accommodate 250 people.”


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