Local activists and legislators immediately organized, albeit with separate approaches, to stop a bad plan for the homeless that would also do irreparable damage to a community.
Activism in Maspeth is so complex, a scorecard won’t do anyone much good. Some started planning a town hall meeting to voice their opposition, while others started pushing legislators to take action. Some started looking for alternative sites for a shelter, while others researched how the city could do this without community input.
On August 11, nearly 2,000 people showed up at Martin Luther School, which could only hold 700. Those who could not get in marched to the hotel to start an impromptu protest.
The television news that evening depicted the fight as the typical NIMBY battle, but local blogs, Facebook pages, legislators and local news organizations told the real story of a negligent approach towards the homeless and the neighborhood.
Businesses donated resources, volunteers spent hours informing the community, legislators planned a lawsuit, and a number of activists met with the comptroller to figure out a way to stop the clock.
Last Wednesday, a Community Board 5 public hearing allowed people to hear more. The residents who spoke asked reasonable questions and put forth sensible considerations against using the hotel as a shelter. It was a victory for the community indeed.
After approaching this from multiple angles, we believe Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has his eye on the job of mayor, can do more than he is admitting to stop this proposal. Yet, he says his hands are tied.
His responsibility is to question the necessity and integrity of any city contract. If the city wants to buy 1 million bricks by next week, but he determines the city only needs 100,000 bricks, he has the ability to void the contract.
Or if the low bidder happens to be an individual of questionable background, he can refuse the contract.
In this case, the city says Maspeth needs to do its “fair share” because they show that there are approximately 240 people on the homeless registry from the 11378 zip code. He can ask the city to prove this.
The comptroller’s office has reportedly not gotten the contract yet. We don’t know if it is part of an emergency. If so there are even more questions he can have. If the contract is not an emergency then why is it happening so quickly?… “denied.
The comptroller can cite the city's own requirement that homeless families have kitchen facilities. We know that The Holiday Inn rooms do not have kitchens.
But the strongest reason the comptroller can deny the contract is reports that the owner of the hotel has a personal history that makes a full investigation prudent before the city or its providers do business with him.
We call upon Comptroller Scott Stringer to do the job we elected him to do.