The city will start housing homeless families instead of single men at the Comfort Inn in Kew Gardens beginning in June, and the hotel will stop being used as an emergency homeless shelter altogether by Feb. 12, 2019.
That’s according to Human Resources Adminstration Commissioner Steve Banks, who made those promises in a Monday letter to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
In return, Koslowitz — who shared the correspondence exclusively with the Chronicle — said she will renew her support for the reactivation of the Queens House of Detention as a jail, should the facilities on Rikers Island close as planned.
The lawmaker exclusively told the Chronicle two weeks ago that she was yanking her support for the QHD proposal, citing a larger-than-planned influx of homeless men the city was housing at the 123-28 82 Ave. hotel just a block away.
“It was a matter of a few weeks that it all transpired, right after it was in your paper,” Koslowitz said Wednesday. “I got the commitment Friday. The commissioner called me on Friday and I told him I wanted it in writing.
“I’m happy that he’s changing it to families and that we’re not going to have the men just walking around anymore,” she added. “I get calls from people in the community who think they’re being followed.”
As of the start of February, there were 132 single men being housed in 84 rooms within the Comfort Inn — the building the hotel is located in also has 38 apartments on the upper floors.
In his letter to Koslowitz, Banks said the “exceptionally cold weather” this winter has been “particularly challenging” in terms of the number of homeless individuals in immediate need of housing — which the city must provide by law to all who seek it.
“In June, we plan to cease using this location to provide emergency shelter for single adults and to instead use it to meet summertime emergency capacity needs for families with children, which typically increase dramatically when the school year ends,” Banks wrote. “As we discussed on Friday night, we will then cease all use of this location within 12 months, which means that effective Feb. 12, 2019, we will not be using the location to provide emergency shelter for families or single adults.”
Banks did not give a projected number of rooms that would be utilized once the site transitions from housing single men to families, but Koslowitz said she anticipates the city will continue renting 84 of them.
One community leader, who declined to be named, told the Chronicle on Wednesday that he was leery of the deal, adding that it wouldn’t surprise him if the city backed out of it at some point.
“I just don’t trust the city or the mayor,” he said. “Although the letter sounds categorical, I can see them saying in February that things have changed.”
But if the city does renege on the agreement, he says he has faith in Koslowitz “holding a big press conference to say the Rikers deal is off.” On its face, though, the leader said he believes community opposition may diminish somewhat with families living at the hotel instead of just men.
“I don’t think many people would have problems with families and kids, as opposed to single men,” he said.