BY LUIS GRONDA
A homeless shelter is apparently coming to Elmhurst’s Pan American Hotel, despite an initial claim that such a plan would not be feasible at the site.
According to a newsletter posted on the website of the civic group Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, or COMET, Samaritan Village is planning to place about 200 homeless individuals at the hotel and have already started to move some of the families there.
The news of the proposal has come as a surprise to community leaders and residents, after the Dept. of Homeless Services said the agency was not interested in creating a shelter at the Queens Boulevard hotel, because it did not meet its requirements.
At a public meeting for the proposed homeless shelter in Glendale on May 22, Lisa Black, the agency’s assistant commissioner of government and human relations, said the hotel is not considered an option for a homeless shelter because of the lack of facilities, including a kitchen, available at the hotel that would accommodate the homeless.
Black was responding to questions from residents who asked if the hotel would be considered for the shelter instead of an earlier proposal for a homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale.
But Roe Daraio, the president of COMET, said the City made the plans for the shelter at Pan Am without notice or an opportunity for community input, despite Black saying that it would not be feasible at the hotel. Daraio said 36 families have already been moved to the hotel.
“Everybody is freaking out down there, we have a lot of issues going on in Elmhurst right now,” she said.
Daraio added that her concern is that the shelter would be near two schools, including IS 5, which is about two blocks away from the hotel, and a daycare center. The Metro Motel, which is one block away, already serves as an area homeless shelter.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) also disapproved of the plan in a statement released by his office.
“I believe it is bad policy to bring that many needy people into one place. While I recognize and support the need to house our homeless, I believe that this number is way too large. While DHS has promised my office added security and additional social services at the site, I still believe Elmhurst is overburdened,” Dromm’s statement read.
He also said the 36 families were moved into the hotel at around 4:45 p.m. on Friday, June 6 and neither his office nor members of the community were given advance notice of the move.
The civic group plans to rally against the shelter outside of the hotel, located at 79-00 Queens Blvd, on Tuesday, June 17, beginning at 6 p.m.
When asked about the site, a DHS spokesperson said in an email the agency is keeping the families there until it can move them to a different shelter. They will provide them with three meals a day and each of the hotel’s units has private bathrooms.
“The City of New York remains committed to offering homeless families the compassion and dignity they deserve in their moment of need. As the number of families with children residing in temporary, emergency shelter grows, we must consider all available options to address our capacity needs and meet our legally mandated right to shelter. In the short term, DHS is using the Queens Boulevard facility to provide essential shelter and supportive services to families with children,” the agency said in a statement.
A DHS spokesperson also said their goal is to move the families with children to permanent housing or another shelter as soon as possible. After that, they will host adult families with no children at that site.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.