Community Board 11 members are opposed to the incoming Douglaston women’s homeless shelter, but not necessarily for the reasons one might think.
“What these women need is a place with food, shelter and access to the subway where they can have some freedom and independence for the ability to look for work without being stared at,” said Eileen Miller, chairperson of the Health Committee, said at a Jan. 28 joint meeting with the Douglaston Zoning Committee. “This is not a productive site for the homeless. This is a transportation desert.”
Miller, who revealed that she and her family had been homeless during her youth, argued that the 75 women over the age of 50 who will be housed in the 243-02 Northern Blvd. shelter won’t be able to “fit in” the neighborhood. She said a more populated area would afford them the chance to blend in and “not feel pressures and stress because of their unfortunate situation.”
Three buses travel along Northern Boulevard in front of the site: the Q12, the N20G and the QM3, all of which travel to Flushing Main Street, which is where the closest subway station is located. The Q36 is a few blocks west and the Q30 less than a mile south. Though a more expensive ride, the Douglaston LIRR station is half a mile away.
“You have to promote a maximum level of independence, which means not having to rely on a group facility bus to take you to the train station. All of the research reflects lack of reliable transportation keeps people homeless,” Miller said, citing a 2015 Harvard University study that found that good, reliable transportation has a correlation in economic mobility.
Rosemarie Guidice, chairperson of the Senior Citizens Committee and a member of the Douglaston Zoning Committee that has been monitoring the situation, raised concerns over the living conditions.
“The children in college are given more dignity than what they’re going to do to those women,” Guidice said. Board member Bernard Haber agreed, adding that by calculating the amount of space per resident, minus office, cafeteria and recreational space, leaves about 60 square feet per person, which he compared to a jail cell.
“These women are coming in with low esteem and low dignity and you’re throwing them into a dorm. I don’t give a damn if it’s New York state regulation,” said Guidice. “They’re trying to come back to society. You’ve got to help them and it’s not putting 10 women in one room.”
The board members also discussed their dissatisfaction with the site’s proximity to the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy, a concern that was echoed by community members at the board’s Feb. 1 meeting. During the public hearing portion, dozens of residents seized the opportunity to reject the incoming shelter. Many worried that the women would bring drugs and crime into the area.
An online petition against the shelter was created by Douglaston resident Dawn Anatra Jan. 29. As of Feb. 3, it had reached 1,534 signatures.
“We are still in the preliminary stages of planning, and as we have done with every Turning the Tide site, the final plans for this site will meet all [Department of Buildings], [Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance], FDNY and other State oversight guidelines, including providing adequate amenities/facilities for every client," the Department of Homeless Services told the Chronicle in an email.
This story has been updated to include a response by the DHS.