“Dead” was how community board member Rosemarie Poveromo described the plan to convert the Westway Motor Inn into a full-time shelter at Community Board 1’s meeting on Tuesday. The motel is located in Astoria, where it borders East Elmhurst.
“The Department of Homeless Services is not converting the Westway into a shelter,” Poveromo said emphatically before abruptly leaving the meeting.
Housing Solutions USA, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, had originally submitted a proposal to the DHS to allow it to “provide services” to 121 homeless families the organization said would be living there, which it informed CB 1 about in a letter in early January.
But the idea that the Westway might become a full-time shelter came under strong opposition from Astoria-based politicians and civic leaders, including City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Astoria Homeowners President Rudy Sarchese.
Vallone said the area, comprised of one- and two-family homes, was not conducive to a homeless shelter.
Complaints against the Westway, which has been used as a temporary homeless shelter since 2006, include prostitution and area burglaries.
Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, had argued at earlier meetings that as a shelter the Westway had been a problem for the community, and that its location is not ideal for such a facility because of the lack of services and convenient transportation.
“The shelter has always been a thorn in the community’s side,” she told the Daily News recently.
Located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd., the Westway will continue to be used for emergency, overnight housing whereby families are bused to the motel at night and then bused out in the morning, according to city officials.
In a statement issued last Friday, Vallone’s office noted that the councilman had met with DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond, who told him there are no plans to change the status of the facility.
“Once again, our community sent a strong, united message and the [DHS] heard us,” Vallone said.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who also opposes a full-time shelter at the Westway, said in a statement that “there are better options both for the community and for those New Yorkers who are in need of assistance.”
Turning to other matters, the board voted to approve the continued construction of an eight-story, 16-room hotel at 38-30 28 St. in Dutch Kills. At issue was a zoning change made by the City Planning Commission in 2008 that was effectively delaying the completion of the building.
Presentations made to the board included one by a representative from People Make Parks, which seeks to foster collaboration in park design between communities and the Parks Department. More information is available at partnershipsforparks.org and hesterstreet.org.
Also at the meeting was the Astoria Park Alliance, a volunteer group whose mission is to beautify, enhance and encourage greater community involvement in Astoria Park, located on the waterfront. The group is seeking volunteers to help with cleanups, maintain gardens and to build partnerships with other groups in the borough. Contact the alliance on Facebook or visit greenshoresnyc.org to learn more about activities in western Queens’ parks.
The NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, an organization that works with landlords, realtors and tenants to establish voluntary smoke-free housing policies in multi-unit dwellings, spoke at the meeting as well, urging residents to adopt smoke-free indoor and outdoor environments.
A representative from the coalition said that tobacco ads target youth unfairly and related that there is strong support throughout the city to limit or greatly decrease the number of tobacco sales to kids.