August 11, By Jason Cohen
With many hotels in Queens being used as homeless shelters, one lawmaker has introduced legislation that would require hotel owners to notify their guests if the homeless are also staying on site.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R- Howard Beach) introduced a bill (Intro. 1682) Wednesday that would mandate hotel owners to post signage notifying paying guests if they are sheltering the homeless. The hotels would also have to disclose it on marketing and advertising material.
Homeless people have found shelter in numerous hotels in the borough, including the Holiday Inn Express in Corona, located at 113-10 Horace Harding Expressway, and The Quality Inn, located 53-05 Queens Boulevard in Woodside.
The City’s decision to use hotels to shelter the homeless has always been controversial. However, when the Department of Homeless Services started placing the homeless in hotels without providing the community notice, the issue became red hot.
The City’s shelter population is approaching 60,000, a record high.
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) adamantly opposes Ulrich’s legislation.
The DHS claims that Ulrich’s bill, if it were to become law, would deter hotel owners from offering space for the homeless, preventing [the city] from meeting its court ordered obligation to provide shelter to New Yorkers. It claims it would lead to an increase in homelessness.
Some commercial hotels are currently being used “as a bridge to shelter homeless New Yorkers who would otherwise be turned out into the streets,” according to the agency.
The DHS also argues that all New Yorkers—no matter whether they are homeless or not– have the right to privacy and no one should have their personal information shared publicly.
“Any disclosure of confidential client information, including addresses where homeless New Yorkers may be sheltered, is a violation of Social Services Law that could put our clients at risk, including domestic violence survivors, as they work to stabilize their lives,” according to Isaac McGinn, a spokesman for DHS. “While we are reviewing the legislation, we have significant concerns about the impact it could have on our homeless neighbors.
The bill has been referred to the City Council’s General Welfare Committee for further examination.
In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to phase out the use of 360 hotel shelters and cluster apartment sites by building 90 permanent homeless shelters and expanding 30.
Channel 11 report