August 21, By Jason Cohen
Two state legislators representing Queens districts plan to introduce a bill that would require hotel owners to notify paying guests if they are sheltering the homeless—-mirroring a controversial city council bill introduced by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Howard Beach) earlier this month.
State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D- Woodhaven) announced that they are bringing their own version of Ulrich’s bill to Albany that would mandate hotel owners to post signs indicating to paying customers that they have homeless people staying in their establishment. It would also have to be included in marketing and sales literature.
The city has found shelter for homeless people in several hotels in the borough in the past few years, including the Holiday Inn Express in Corona, The Quality Inn in Woodside, and the Westway Motel in East Elmhurst.
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.
Miller said he hopes that this legislation will increase transparency for both hotel guests and the community.
“Paying customers have the right to know what an establishment they intend to lodge at is doing,” Miller said. “We have an obligation to be transparent about where homeless families and individuals are being housed. This bill will go a long way to make sure that the tourism and hotel industry in the state of New York is giving accurate information to prospective customers.”
Meanwhile, Addabbo insisted that the bill was not written to cause suffering for the homeless.
“This legislation is not in any way intended to hurt homeless individuals and families living in hotels in Queens or throughout the five boroughs, but it is an effort to ensure that the City hears loud and clear that this type of housing to address the homeless crisis is not working and is almost always completely inappropriate for those in need,” Addabbo added.
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) opposes this legislation much like it does Ulrich’s bill.
The DHS claims that these bills, if they were to become law, would deter hotel owners from offering space for the homeless, which would prevent the city from meeting its court ordered obligation to provide shelter to New Yorkers. It claims it would lead to an increase in homelessness. The City’s shelter population already at a record high of about 60,000
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.
“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.