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Queens Chronicle

Shelter opponents see Maspeth rerun

City’s shelter strategy familiar to St. Albans residents near Hollis facility

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Posted: Thursday, October 13, 2016 10:30 am

In the last two weeks, Mayor de Blasio has held a town hall meeting with people of Community Board 12, trying to explain his policy on homeless shelter placement, only to further inflame already irate residents.

This past week he said the Department of Homeless Services had relented in the face of local opposition to converting a Holiday Inn in Maspeth to a homeless shelter — only to turn around and start renting rooms to 30 single homeless men at that same hotel.

St. Albans resident Anthony Rivers, who co-founded a group that delayed but could not stop a shelter on Hollis Avenue in his neighborhood, gave an understated assessment on Tuesday.

“I think there has been a misunderstanding,” Rivers said.

Rivers said that in accounts he has read from Maspeth and Middle Village, residents’ elected officials have been vociferous and very direct in their opposition.

He and members of People for the Neighborhood have been saying for nearly two years that their representatives at the city and state levels have been missing in action at best — and de Blasio, at the Sept. 28 town hall meeting praised Councilman Daneek Miller for his help in getting a shelter for 90 veterans up and running in apartments between 202-02 and 202-24 Hollis Ave. after People for the Neighborhood was successful in delaying the opening for months with a lawsuit.

Two new videos from the city could be taken to depict Maspeth residents’ opposition to the shelters as uncaring or even racially motivated.

Rivers has regularly accused the city of treating him and his neighbors in a similar fashion by stressing the Hollis Avenue shelter’s designation for veterans.

“We’re not anti-veteran,” said Rivers, himself a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the brother of a Purple Heart recipient.

Rivers, in a telephone conversation on Tuesday, alleged that residents’ long-standing fears of men with myriad social service needs, some with psychiatric or substance abuse issues, have proven to be true.

While de Blasio and DHS have stressed that placing a shelter in Maspeth was designed to cater to a reported 250 homeless Maspeth residents, Rivers alleges that the men on Hollis Avenue come from all over the five boroughs.

And both neighborhoods have accused DHS of first hiding its true intentions and then trying to ram the shelter through.

Residents of Community Board 12 also fear that a new phenomenon — the approval of a large number of permits to build small to midsized hotels in the region — could be a case of hotel owners who are more interested in housing the homeless or serving as shelters than in catering to travelers.

Large national hotel chains have been very interested in South Jamaica, given its proximity to John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as the Long Island Rail Road’s Jamaica Station.

The latter is readily accessible to JFK via the AirTrain, and is less than 30 minutes from Penn Station and Downtown Manhattan by train.

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