October 6, By Christian Murray
The Department of Homeless Services has been housing homeless families at the City View Inn in Long Island City since late July, residents learned at a community meeting last night.
The revelation was made during a heated Community Board 2 meeting on Oct. 6 while board members were questioning DHS officials on why the agency started using the Best Western hotel as a shelter without providing the community adequate notice. Some officials said they were given less than 24 hours notice before the decision to use the hotel at 38-05 Hunters Point Ave. as a shelter.
Claims that DHS lacks transparency grew in intensity when attendees were informed that it had been using the Citi View Inn, located at 33-17 Greenpoint Ave., to house 37 homeless families since late July.
A representative from DHS claimed that elected officials and the community board were notified 24 hours prior to the homeless moving into the Citi View Inn. CB2 officials, however, claim that they only learned about it being used as a shelter after the 108 Police Precinct notified them of some domestic disputes at the location — and they did some digging.
Representatives of DHS faced an onslaught of criticism at the meeting, with elected officials, board members and the public arguing that the agency acts in secret to the detriment of the public.
“This is a broken system,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who spoke at the beginning of the board meeting. “It is wrong and absolutely absurd to start moving people in before anyone in the community knows or has an opportunity to talk about it.”
Van Bramer said that he nor any of the elected officials knew that 57 families were moving into the Best Western, located at 38-05 Hunters Point Ave., until hours before people started moving in.
DHS officials defended the practice, arguing that it is required to house the homeless and that it was an emergency so it decided to use the Best Western.
Stephen Cooper, a board member, asked DHS how it came to use Best Western, doubting that the agency just ran out that night looking for a hotel to house 57 families. He and other members wanted to know what discussions had taken place with the owner of Best Western prior to last week, and what had been negotiated.
The representatives of DHS at the meeting were unable to answer these questions.
Some board members claimed that Community Board 2 is carrying an unfair burden, with four hotels in the district now being used to shelter the homeless–the Verve Hotel, Best Western, Quality Inn and Citi View. Many also wanted to know how many homeless people came from CB2.
Amanda Nasner, the Queens Director for DHS, said that 416 homeless people are being housed in Community Board 2. She said that 260 individuals who are part of the citywide shelter system come from CB2.
After the meeting, Van Bramer in a statement said that the district is already doing enough to house the homeless.
“Our community now houses more homeless individuals than it produces,” Van Bramer said. “The Mayor has said those numbers should be aligned. So why do they keep converting hotels into shelters in an area already doing more than its fair share? It’s wrong and it must end. The Mayor and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner should come to our community and answer these questions directly from my constituents.”
The City View location, according to CB2, has been less contentious than what’s transpired with the Best Western, where attendees last night complained about people pot smoking and loitering outside. The Best Western’s location by the LIE is also viewed by some as hazardous for children.
Meanwhile, there have not been any complaints made by residents about Citi View to Community Board 2 and elected leaders have heard little.
Denise Keehan Smith, community board 2 chair, attributes the lack of complaints to Citi View’s location. The hotel is not located in a residential area; instead it is across the street from Calvary Cemetery, adjacent to an industrial zone.