BY LUIS GRONDA
They took over a portion of Queens Boulevard to say “No!” to a homeless shelter.
Around 1,000 residents gathered outside the Pan American Hotel Tuesday evening to protest the shelter the City created last week, much to the surprise of many residents and elected officials.
Droves of residents came out to the protest, chanting in both English and Chinese, demanding that the shelter leave their neighborhood. “Helter Skelter, we don’t want another shelter,” read one sign hoisted by a protestor. The part of Queens Boulevard in front of the hotel was eventually closed off to pedestrians as more people gathered for the protest.
At the forefront of the rally was Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Roe Daraio, president of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together civic group who organized the protest.
Dromm said he is upset his office was not notified in a timely fashion that the City would be placing homeless families in the hotel, despite previous statements that it was not suitable for a homeless shelter.
“We feel that we’ve been lied to,” the councilman said.
Lisa Black, the Dept. of Homeless Services’ assistant commissioner of government and human relations, said last month that the hotel was 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.
A few weeks later, Samaritan Village, who is running that shelter, was granted an emergency decree to move some families there because of a shortage of available facilities.
A DHS spokesperson told the Tribune last week that it would look to relocate the families with children to another shelter as soon as possible and eventually only house families with no children at Pan Am.
Daraio said they organized the rally to provide an avenue of protest for the concerned residents in the area.
“If we don’t voice our concerns, we will become part of the problem and not part of the solution,” she said.
The next step is a town hall meeting focusing on this issue. Dromm said he is working with COMET and Community Board 4 to find an exact date for the meeting. He hopes to have the meeting within the next two weeks, Dromm said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.