Sept. 27, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez (Updated Sept. 28)
A Best Western hotel located near the Sunnyside/LIC border has become a homeless shelter, the Sunnyside Post has learned.
The site at 38-05 Hunters Point Ave. has been in use by the Department of Homeless Services since Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the agency.
“We are using this location as a bridge to shelter homeless New Yorkers who would otherwise be turned out into the streets,” the spokesperson said. The DHS is currently using 64 units out of the 82 it reserved at the location for families with children.
A hotel employee reached through the hotel’s listed number confirmed that families began moving in on Tuesday.
“It was a surprise for everybody,” the employee said. “We only got a week notice.”
The employee said “everything changed” on Sept. 25. The date coincides with a photo tweeted on that same day showing a letter written by hotel management to employees at the Hunters Point Ave. site.
“This letter is to inform you that your employment with…Best Western will be ending on September 25, 2017,” the letter written by SSN Hotels, a Delaware-based LLC, reads. “The business has been sold.” The tweet was directed to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who replied on Sept. 26 saying that a member of his staff would follow up with the user.
The Twitter user, Matthew Russo, told the Sunnyside Post that the letter was found on the ground near the hotel.
Elected officials and community leaders were not notified about the shelter until Tuesday, according to the DHS.
Van Bramer took exception to the lack of notice.
“I am disappointed that my office and the community did not have input in or knowledge of the decision to convert this hotel. While we can never demonize the homeless, many of which are children, I share in my community’s frustration of the process by which this decision was made.”
The new homeless shelter comes in the midst of the city announcing an effort to phase out the use of hotels as shelters by 2023 throughout the city.
The DHS spokesperson said the city is prioritizing phasing out cluster units first, followed by commercial hotels at shelter sites. The 38-05 Hunters Point Ave. location will eventually be phased out as a shelter, along with the the two other commercial hotel locations currently providing shelter in Community Board 2.
The former Best Western site used to be the site of a Red Roof Inn.
Update Sept. 28, 6:10 p.m. – Article updated with information from the Department of Homeless Services and Councilman Van Bramer