Pol: Pan Am shelter not fit to become permanent
by Jess Berry
Dec 17, 2014 | 7788 views | 0 0 comments | 90 90 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local Elmhurst residents joined State Senator Tony Avella last week to contest the conversion of the Pan Am homeless shelter on Queens Boulevard into a permanent facility.

The shelter just underwent the review process to become a permanent shelter, with a contract that will award Samaritan Village $42 million over the course of five years to run the shelter.

Senator Avella and residents listed a number of issues they believe makes the shelter unfit to become a permanent facility, and expressed discontent with the lack of transparency on decisions regarding the shelter.

According to Avella, the city has a list of complaints about the Pan Am shelter, including heat and hot water being turned off for days at a time, bed bugs, peeling lead paint in one of the units and trash left in the entrance to the facility’s playroom for the children.

The shelter also does not meet requirements for cooking facilities in each unit, as the converted hotel does not have any kitchen units in any of the rooms. Avella also said that the facility does not provide the required child care services.

In the end, Avella said, the Pan Am shelter is “unfit to operate long-term housing” and is “not doing the right thing by these homeless families.”

Besides the issues with the facility, Avella said he was concerned with the way the shelter was created without community input and now on the path to becoming permanent in a similar fashion.

“The city, because of this emergency situation, seems to think that they can just plunk these shelters down in any sort of neighborhood without any regard for how it affects the neighborhood, without any regard for how it overcrowds the local school system,” he said. “There has to be a better way.”

Local residents agreed, saying they only found out about the public hearing regarding the transition of the facility into a permanent shelter by checking the city record.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor have chosen to bypass the prescribed public involvement process by secretly opening up new shelters under the guise of an emergency, then converting these emergency shelters into permanent ones,” said Jennifer Chu, a local resident.

She pointed out that a recent audit by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli revealed that between 2010 and 2012, DHS opened 14 emergency shelters. Ten of those were then converted into permanent shelters.

“I’m not sure what kind of trick Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Taylor are trying to pull, but shame on them for deliberately bypassing the public review process,” Chu said. “Shame on them for putting homeless families in a facility that is not fit for families with children.”

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