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Queens Chronicle

New hotel shelter bill proposed

Ulrich says hotel guests should know if homeless are there

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Posted: Thursday, August 10, 2017 10:30 am

Those looking to check into a city hotel would be notified that some of their neighbors are homeless people being sheltered by the city, if a bill introduced by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) becomes law.

Ulrich introduced the bill during the City Council’s monthly meeting Wednesday and told WPIX-11 “It’s going to be a big stick in the eye to the mayor, who has absolutely failed abysmally when it comes to addressing the homelessness crisis that we have in this city.”

The use of hotels to house the undomiciled has been a hot-button issue in recent years, with many in Queens being utilized and paid for with taxpayers dollars.

In Ulrich’s district, the Comfort Inn and the Days Inn & Suites on Redding Street in Ozone Park had homeless people moved in late last year, and city documents state the former might see all of the rooms be used as temporary shelters.

“The public has a right to know whether or not that hotel or that motel is also being used as a temporary homeless shelter,” the councilman told WPIX.

Rooms at both hotels do not have kitchens, which violates the city’s own law that states family shelters must have proper cooking facilities.

But that’s not a problem unique to the Ozone Park sites, as other hotel shelters do not have kitchens, including the former Pan Am Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst.

At press time, the number of homeless people staying in city shelters was at 58,803, according to the Department of Homeless Services. That’s down from more than 60,000 earlier this year.

The de Blasio administration unveiled a plan in March to phase out the use of 360 hotel shelters and cluster apartment sites by building 90 new shelters and expanding 30 others by 2023.

Ulrich believes his bill will “scare the daylights” out of hotel owners profiting off the homeless crisis.

“They don’t want to advertise on the internet or in the lobby of their hotel or motel that they have homeless people staying there but they ought to know better,” he told the TV station in front of City Hall.

The borough’s only Republican elected official, one of three in the 51-member Council, Ulrich admits it won’t be easy getting the bill signed by the mayor.

“It’s going to be an uphill [battle] because the mayor is not going to want it,” he said.

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