Photo via Google Maps
The former Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ozone Park.

As news of a homeless shelter opening in Ozone Park later this year spreads throughout the borough, one Queens lawmaker is taking his concerns directly to the mayor’s office.

Assemblyman Mike Miller sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio on June 11, adding yet another layer of opposition to the Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) plan to open a shelter at the former site of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on 101st Avenue and 86th Street.

Miller completed a triumvirate of local elected officials whose districts cover the shelter site — joining Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilman Eric Ulrich — who made it clear that a lack of community input on this proposal was unacceptable.

“I would like to understand your administration’s perspective on how having two shelters forced upon my assembly district and Community Board 9 without any input from the community in which it will effect is fair to my constituents and students in the surrounding schools,” Miller wrote in the letter. “How is placing a homeless shelter to house 113 single men ages 21 and up who are dealing with mental illness and addiction near seven schools in my district safe?”

While Board 9 contains one of the infamous hotels converted to a shelter in Kew Gardens that the mayor has vowed to dismantle, Miller pointed out that Ozone Park is already home to a drop-in homeless shelter on Atlantic Avenue — one mile away from where the new shelter is being built.

Miller also condemned the fact that the nonprofit service provider that will operate the new shelter, Lantern Community Services, identified the location for the shelter independently. Although the city welcomed community input for possible shelter sites earlier this year, it is a provision in the mayor’s ‘Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City’ plan that service providers come to an agreement with property owners before presenting plans to the city.

Referring to an administration that “continues to fail at transparency,” Miller mentioned the QNS report in which a DHS spokesperson said the agency is looking to “identify new shelter sites within CD9 for at least an additional 150 individuals” over the next few years.

DHS first notified Miller and the rest of the elected officials on Monday, June 4, that it plans to move forward with the shelter proposal. Two days later, Ulrich was one of the first to voice that he was “deeply disturbed” about the location of the shelter in his District 32 in a June 6 statement.

Addabbo followed suit on June 12, hours before a Community Board 9 meeting in Ozone Park, and released a statement that said he would “take every credible, necessary measure” to protect the neighborhood where he is a lifelong resident.

“As we prepare to oppose this mayor’s ill conceived plan and provide improved services for the homeless individuals, I believe now is the time to refrain from striking false fear into the community and gather facts in order to strategically work together in making a timely, credible argument against the city’s Ozone Park shelter idea,” Addabbo said.

During the Board 9 meeting that night, however, a massive crowd of community members came to express their concerns, and Ulrich said the city “might as well empty Rikers and put it on 101st Avenue,” as he addressed the audience.

In neighboring District 30, Councilman Robert Holden has fought successfully against homeless shelters in the past, and he weighed in on the city’s latest proposal and apparent lack of notice to the community after a June 6 meeting at his Middle Village office.

“I’m always worried because I’m a veteran of two wars of homeless shelters,” Holden said. “The battles are looming, but I want to be creative and I know that it’s an issue. I have a newfound respect for the mayor and [DHS] Commissioner Banks because they do have tough jobs … We’re in the neighborhoods trying to keep our neighborhoods good, but they have a bigger duty to house the homeless.”


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