Elmhurst residents protest 58th Ave. shelter
by Shane Miller
Jul 11, 2009 | 3930 views | 0 0 comments | 123 123 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Linda Lam speaking at the rally.
Roe Daraio, president of COMET, addresses the crowd.
Close to 200 Elmhurst and Maspeth residents gathered on 58th Avenue Saturday morning to protest plans to move a homeless shelter into a building located at 86-18 58th Avenue.

The building has already been converted into a homeless shelter and is ready to begin accepting clients.

"Our children can no longer feel safe on the streets," said Linda Lam, a 29-year resident of 58th Avenue. "What is HRA thinking? The homeless shelter does not belong in our community."

The homeless shelter will be operated by the newly formed Queens Alliance, a group funded by the city's Human Resources Administration (HRA), which will direct clients to the new shelter. Queens Alliance officials have said that the 58th Avenue facility will not accept medical patients or serve as a drug rehab facility.

"At no time will there be drug treatment going on at the premises," said Martin Garibaldi of Queens Alliance in a phone interview following the rally. "And the facility will have adequate security to meet its needs."

Garibaldi said that the facility was ready to open, but has decided to postpone accepting clients considering the recent community opposition to the shelter. The facility, which has been undergoing extensive renovations over the past year to meet HRA standards, will be able to accommodate 29 clients.

HRA did not return several call seeking comment.

At the rally, Lam noted that the neighborhood already has two social service facilities, including one across the street from the homeless shelter for mentally challenged adults.

"We have shouldered more than our fair share already," said Lam. "These facilities are located mid-block on a quiet dead-end street, and the only access to public transportation is to parade through the entire block."

Lam said that the city should focus on creating services to the neighborhood that would benefit community residents.

"We need more day care centers for the working parents," she said. "Our parents want to work, be productive, and pay taxes, but cannot because of a lack of quality day care.

Rally organizers asked people to sign petitions on Saturday urging the city to reverse its decision, but the city has already issued the necessary licenses to Queens Alliance.

"If things go wrong here, we'll report that and hopefully they could lose their license," said Roe Daraio, president of Citizens of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET), a local civic organization. "They don't own the site, they lease the site."

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