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Queens Chronicle

Maspeth erupts in protest of homeless shelter plan

Hundreds pack public meeting while hundreds more protest

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Posted: Friday, August 12, 2016 11:59 am

The gloves are off. Maspeth is ready for war.

In protest of the plan to convert the Holiday Inn at 59-40 55 Road into a homeless shelter, over 1,000 furious residents descended on the Martin Luther School on Thursday to tell Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steve Banks where to shove it.

And of the 500 who were able to make it inside the school's boiling hot gym, none were as colorful as lifelong Maspeth resident Lance Lovejoy, 47.

"Are you aware the city's about to spend $8 million in repairs to fix that park?" Lovejoy asked Banks of the $6.9 million plan to refurbish the ballfields at Frank Principe Park just a few steps away from the hotel. "Why don't you take that $8 million and build a f--king homeless shelter next to de Blasio's house?"

Before the meeting even began, it was the charismatic Lovejoy who stirred an already angry crowd into a frenzy. Donning a shirt featuring a picture of a baby with the caption "Mayor de Blasio, go f--k yourself," he paced from one side of the gym to the other, leading the crowd in deafening "No homeless shelter!" chants. 

Those chants and others jeers — including "Liar!" and "Impeach Mayor de Blasio!" — forced a frustrated Banks to scream over the crowd and even retreat away from the podium on two occasions, with meeting moderator Randy Gast and Mike LoCascio, a Community Board 5 member who organized the meeting, having to calm the crowd.

According to Banks, the city hopes to begin using the 110-room hotel as a shelter for adult families — couples or single parents with children over 18 — on Oct. 1. A quarter of the building's homeless population will be employed, he said, while 43 percent will be receiving Social Security disability benefits.

"By looking at clients who are either working or receiving disability benefits through Social Security," Banks shouted over a bevy of jeers, "we want to give them a better place to be. 

"We say if you live in Maspeth and become homeless, why should you have to go to another borough to get help?" he added, noting 243 Maspeth natives live in shelters across the city. "We want to help people in their community."

The HRA commissioner also commended the attendees of the meeting for coming, saying the city would prefer to have a dialogue with them instead of opening a shelter "in the middle of the night" as it has done in the past.

Banks' speech failed to win anyone over, however, as speaker after speaker took to the microphone to emphatically slam him and the city. 

"My elderly mother lives four blocks from this shelter," one animated resident said. "If anything happens to her, I will personally come — not a threat — and sue you and sue Billy boy until I have everything you have" — the latter meaning the mayor.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) also gave unusually fiery speeches, with the former accusing Mayor de Blasio of having her district at the top of his "hit list."

"Mayor de Blasio is trying to solve homelessness on our backs," Crowley said. "I will not let the quality of life of Maspeth residents be compromised." 

Despite being heavily booed as she walked to the podium, Crowley earned a standing ovation for her remarks, which ended with the declaration, "It must end here. We're going to fight until we win!"

The two politicians repeated their speeches for the approximately 500 people standing in the school's parking lot, earning more cheers. Afterward, the throngs of angry residents marched the five blocks to the Holiday Inn, with dozens of protesters walking up to its front door.

One man was arrested, and according to witnesses, it took five police officers to drag him to the ground. 

Det. Thomas Bell of the 104th Precinct told the Chronicle outside the hotel that he is being given a summons for disorderly conduct. 

After the arrest, police taped off the two ramps leading to the Holiday Inn's main entrance, with the hundreds of protesters taking to 55th Road.

Chants of "Boycott Holiday Inn!" and "Maspeth lives matter!" rang out well past 10 p.m., with some even calling for a "stop the traffic" protest on the Long Island Expressway in front of the hotel today, Friday, at 4 p.m.

"We're going to do this here every f---king night," one man yelled, "until these scumbags hear us!"

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5 comments:

  • livelyreggie posted at 10:42 am on Thu, Aug 18, 2016.

    livelyreggie Posts: 58

    Folks, this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is rampant in our country, but you may have just been hearing about it for the first time. Hotels and motels all over are filled with these people. Not necessarily homeless, but illegals, refugees, etc., and you may not even know it. For instance, I went out to Wading River in the dead of winter last year, which is way out on Long Island and usually a summer haven for NYers. I passed by a small little motel and the surprisingly the sign said "No Vacancies." No vacancies? The temperature was about 3 degrees, in this sleepy little summer enclave and yet the motel was full? Hmm....it's going on all around you folks, wake up!

     
  • Alan W posted at 4:59 pm on Wed, Aug 17, 2016.

    Alan W Posts: 1

    Deblasio is punk. This move is collective punishment for not supporting his awful agenda. He knows this is a working class neighborhood with police, firefighters, and sanitation workers who dont support him. He has nothing to lose by pissing us off. He knows his place is really with Sharpton and handing out section 8 checks and building a constituency built around getting handouts from him. Screw him, and screw his plan to turn our neighborhood into a dump. Put the next homeless shelter on the upper east side.

     
  • Queensres posted at 10:48 pm on Mon, Aug 15, 2016.

    Queensres Posts: 3

    Industrial zoned areas are targets for builders who rely on converting "hotels/motels" into instant slums.
    They rely on busting neighborhoods, and the softness of the reaction amazes most of these hard nosed types. A 200 square feet sized room motel was just built in the designated area of LIC for industry, one of three or four nearby.
    It's zoning busting, that's all.
    The return on the investment is wonderful, because softy types pay through higher taxes, but don't live with formerly homeless next to open garages, easy pickings burglary sites, and the lessened police vigilance of industrial areas, generally.. Masbeth should be proud for revolting, finally.

     
  • wwignes posted at 11:14 am on Sat, Aug 13, 2016.

    wwignes Posts: 1

    Statistically, homeless are less violent than those indoors. From experience I'd say what violence there is is overwhelmingly amongst themselves, and additional research shows that this violence increases when people need to hop from shelter to shelter just to find a place as is now the case in NY.

    Drugs can be a problem though. But I've seen it go both ways; if there are alternative places to be then it need not attract that crowd. If people have a guaranteed bed and an accessible place to actually be during the day, then this improves things much as well.

     
  • bboy posted at 10:39 am on Sat, Aug 13, 2016.

    bboy Posts: 2

    leave these homeless people alone they are americans just like you why dont you help them. you are lucky they havent put the refugees in there that obama is bring into the country. 600.000 of them and if you protest them you will be put in jail by the feds