Pols urge comptroller to reject homeless shelter for second time
by Holly Bieler
Jul 07, 2015 | 9827 views | 0 0 comments | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pols call on Comptroller Scott Stringer to reject a homeless shelter contract.
Pols call on Comptroller Scott Stringer to reject a homeless shelter contract.
Elected officials gathered at perennial community headache - the Pan Am homeless shelter on Queens Boulevard - this week, calling on Comptroller Scott Stringer to once again reject an application to convert the emergency shelter into a permanent facility, as his office did in May.

Stringer cited health and safety concerns in that decision, however the proposal, which aims to convert the old hotel-cum-emergency shelter into a permanent facility via a five-year, $42 million contract between Samaritan Village and the Department of Homeless Services, was resubmitted last month. His office has until next week to make a decision.

“We’re asking the city to do the right thing and deny the contract,” said State Senator Tony Avella at a press conference in front of the shelter.

He said that problems cited by the comptroller in his May decision to reject the proposal had not been rectified, and that the building’s units remained unsuitable for housing families, a sentiment long echoed by opponents of the shelter. He said the new proposal did little to address the issues outlined in the previous decision.

“One thing the city is now saying is they’re going to put a commercial kitchen in the building,” he said. “You’re still violating the law. The law says when you house homeless families, they have to have a kitchen in that unit.”

Elected officials also urged the Assembly to pass companion legislation to a bill by Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, co-sponsored by state senators Joseph Addabbo, Jr. and Jose Peralta, which would require the City Planning Commission to hold public forums prior to approving new sites for social services facilities.

“We all understand we have a duty to take care of those who are less fortunate than us,” Klein said. “But we also have a duty to our constituents, that they have input in these projects. This gives the community a voice.”

Under the legislation, which passed in the State Senate this year but failed in the Assembly, CPC would be tasked with organizing community hearings in conjunction with local community boards within 60-90 days of an application for a social services site.

Addabbo, currently mired in another protracted battle over a homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue in Glendale, now the focus of a lawsuit, said that gaining public input in initial stages could prevent escalating battles like those in Glendale.

“My guess is that these residents know what the public transportation is like, they know the infrastructure, they know the impact a homeless shelter would have on their community, and they might bring to light an issue the city has not seen or thought of,” he said.

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