BY JON CRONIN
Parents and Ozone Park residents blasted plans for a proposed homeless shelter on Atlantic Avenue that will be less than 1,000 feet from a local high school during a protest last weekend.
Laura Sandora, PTA co-president at the High School for Trades, Engineering and Architecture, approximated that 35 people turned out on Sunday and that residents would hold another protest this coming weekend.
“We’re gonna be handing out fliers throughout the area,” said Sandora.
She said that residents started the protests following a meeting, which was attended by more than 100 people in December at the trade school. At the meeting, the community was told by former GOP state Senate candidate Mike Canigliaro and former GOP state Assembly candidate Joseph Maldonado that local elected officials would not help them and they would have to fend for themselves. Sandora said politicians were not invited to the meeting, only parents.
At the meeting, residents brainstormed and discussed how to come together as a community. They obtained the address of Fred Khalili, the owner of the 100-35 Atlantic Ave. site, and sent letters to his home.
Sandora said students frequently walk past the proposed shelter site, including some girls as young as 13 years, whom she called “vulnerable.” Residents are concerned that the shelter might draw sex offenders to the community. Sandora said that the Department of Homeless Services told the community that the Skyway homeless shelter in South Ozone Park would not have sex offenders, however, two were discovered there.
“It’s just wrong. it’s too close to a school,” she said. “You see all the homeless people in Forest Park? Build one there. Build them a safe warm place to live.”
The next protest will be at 1 p.m. on Feb 12.
“We may want to do it weekly, everyone was excited to do it again last week,” she said.
Leslie Patterson, Councilman Ruben Wills’ (D-Jamaica) chief of staff said when Breaking Ground files a permit with the NYC Department Of Buildings, they will move forward with a lawsuit against the owner of the property, Breaking Ground and the city’s Department of Homeless Services. The basis of the lawsuit would argue that the site could place sex offenders within less than 1,000 feet from a school. However, Patterson said the basis of the lawsuit may change, depending on the plan for the shelter, once it is filed with the DOB.
Breaking Ground is a not-for-profit that aids homeless people in finding work and permanent affordable housing. Its plan for the Ozone Park location entails both what it calls a “safe haven” and a “drop-in center,” which includes the housing of 50 adults for an average of nine months. It would also enable a maximum of 75 people who live on the street to eat and shower and provide education and services to prevent the loss of housing.
In the safe haven area, residents would have their own room or private space, but no required curfews or check-ins. It would also have robust 24/7 staffing with on-premise security. She said that residents would not be kicked out during the day— which is a common practice at city shelters— but would be encouraged not to loiter outside. There would also be on-site job training, psychiatrists and doctors.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin