BY JON CRONIN
A family shelter on Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park at the Econo Lodge location recently popped up on the radar of residents and local officials.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), noted that it is temporary housing and it is not the entire Econolodge that is being used, but he believes not telling the community or local officials that a shelter is coming shows a lack of communication by the mayor’s office.
Addabbo said there are two other potential sites that he is fighting in his district, one is the Day Top Center in Rockaway Park at Beach 92nd St. and the other is in Glendale on Cooper Avenue. He said he and Mayor Bill de Blasio have been having conversations about those sites, and wonders why he would fail to communicate about this one. “No one knew about it,” he said.
He said when he finally got to view the paperwork on the family shelter he noticed, “They failed to mention the casino, how convenient” and added, “What rational thought goes into putting it next to a casino. This is not a well-thought-out process.”
Addabbo believes the mayor’s office should have let local officials know that there is a crisis, and asked them to find a suitable place in the district. “We could have had a working relationship,” he said.
Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, said the family shelter is not even on their radar. Schiff said in the past, “You had prostitutes going into that location,” and added, “It’s a neighborhood motel on par with others in the area.”
He said when it was operating singularly as a motel they received infrequent calls, explaining that there was a couple of times where his precinct set up prostitution stings at the Econo Lodge, but they checked out the management and they were never involved. Regarding prostitution, he said, they usually set up somewhere for a week and move on.
“There was nothing that was a consistent chronic problem,” he noted.
Schiff said the shelter opened around six months ago.
“It was a surprise when it converted,” he said. Schiff added that people in the area didn’t realize it was there until about three months after it opened.
Howard Kamph, president of the Ozone Park Civic Association, said he did not find out about the shelter until the last Community Board 10 meeting. “There are too many homeless shelters here,” he said and added, “They say it’s only temporary, but it never is.”
He believes their presence downgrades the community and affects their property values. He echoed Addabbo’s statement and wished the Department of Homeless Services had come to the CB 10 meeting to discuss it with them.
“There are too many hotels in the area and this is the only route they have,” Kamph said.
A statement from Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder’s (D- Rockaway Beach) said, “The Assemblyman has concerns about the impact on the community and has made it a point to voice these concerns to the city. As with any shelter site the city proposes, it’s important to ensure its appropriate for the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the families that may live at the shelter.”
Emails to DHS were not returned as of press time.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, email@example.com or @JonathanSCronin