For weeks, community leaders opposed to a new homeless shelter in Elmhurst and plans for another in Glendale have been urging residents to call or email City Comptroller Scott Stringer to make their opinions known.
Well, it's working.
In a July 17 letter addressed to Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor, Stringer sharply criticized the DHS for its "failing" policies, a lack of transparency and for not properly informing neighborhood residents of impending homeless shelters.
"Many diverse causes contribute to the shocking rise of homelessness in New York city, but one thing is certain — the current playbook for dealing with homelessness in the five boroughs is failing," Stringer wrote, "Time and time again, I have seen communities that we traditionally welcoming of shelter facilities and supportive housing react negatively to a rushed DHS placement due to a failure to consider either legitimate potential neighborhood impacts or the health of the families the residences are intended to support.
"DHS must begin to immediately repair its relationships with local communities by creating a robust consultative process with community stakeholders for all of its current planned sites and those proposed in the future," he continued. "Most importantly, DHS must clearly delineate for the public what its consultive process will entail, with transparent and dependable timelines so that communities and stakeholders are no longer notified of new sites at the 11th hour."
When asked if the letter is in direct response to community opposition to the sudden transformation of the Pan American Hotel at 78-00 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst into a homeless shelter and a proposed 125-family residence at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, a spokesman for Stringer said, "The letter speaks for itself."
In recent days, other parts of Queens have been impacted by the stealthy conversion of structures into homeless shelters. In East Elmhurst, the Westway Motor Inn began housing families last week and a emergency public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday, July 23.
In the Rockaways, residents are furious over a former drug rehabilitation clinic becoming a homeless shelter with the ability to house 155 families.
The Daily News reported Wednesday that DHS told Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) in June that there were no plans to use the facility as a shelter.