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Queens Chronicle

College Pt. shelter is now for women

Area leaders say it’s a partial victory; hundreds have protested city’s plan

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:25 pm, Thu Oct 10, 2019.

Only women — not single men, as originally planned — are living at the controversial 200-bed homeless shelter that was scheduled to open Wednesday at 127-03 20 Ave. in College Point.

Area leaders who fought the de Blasio administration to get the plan stopped declared a partial victory. Concerns had been expressed about placing single men — some of whom may have been formerly incarcerated — near five neighborhood schools with young children. Residents also called the 20th Avenue location bad because of its lack of subway access and distance from social services centers.

“The community remained diligent, vigilant and united and has now successfully secured the conversion to a shelter for women, rather than single men,” state Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside) said in a prepared statement. “Although the plan is by no means perfect, we are satisfied that a far better outcome has been achieved.”

The city Department of Homeless Services did not return Chronicle inquiries seeking to verify that the facility opened as planned on Wednesday, and that there would be no children living at the shelter.

Thirty shelter residents will move in each week until the 200-bed facility’s capacity is reached, according to College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association President Michael Niebauer. He also said there would be no children living there.

The plan has been highly contentious since the city announced it last winter. Hundreds rallied against it earlier this year in College Point. Other shelter proposals in different communities across Queens, such as on Cooper Avenue in Glendale recently, have generated major backlash.

“This is not what we demanded, certainly it’s not what we hoped for,” College Point Residents’ Coalition member Michael Deng said in his own statement. “However, we do feel that a women’s shelter will be better and is a less intimidating fit for the community, particularly the elderly, women and school kids, as their safety is what we are most worried and concerned about.”

The shelter is one of the reasons that a full-time security guard was hired at all-girls St. Agnes Academic High School, located on 124th Street near the shelter site, Principal Susan Nicoletti told the Chronicle.

“I just think as the months unfold, we’ll learn more and we certainly don’t wish [the homeless] anything but good things, but we need to make sure that our girls are safe at the same time,” she said.

Whether men or women are living at 127-03 20 Ave., College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association First Vice President Barbara McHugh said it doesn’t make too much of a difference to her and others in the neighborhood.

“We’d rather have no shelter,” she said, noting that some of the women at the shelter may be formerly incarcerated.

Critics of the 127-03 20 Ave. plan have also said the facility would lower the prices of nearby homes. A recent study by the nonpartisan city Independent Budget Office may lend ammunition to their arguments: It found that shelters in Manhattan lowered the values of close by houses by as much as 17 percent.

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