Rallying in front of 127-03 20th Avenue on Monday evening, the assembled group made the case that the neighborhood has already burdened with too many of the city’s municipal buildings, and that the site would be the wrong place to house the homeless.
Councilman Paul Vallone said College Point is already home to a police academy, a waste transfer station, a tow pound and much more. The Department of Motor Vehicles and a corporate park are also located in the neighborhood, adding to the traffic and congestion.
“This is not a community that’s saying not in our backyard,” he said. “This is a community that’s saying we have had enough. It’s just too much.”
He added that there are not enough services, transit options or infrastructure to serve the homeless population. He also noted that 2,000 students and an all-girls high school are within six blocks of the 20th Avenue site.
Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal said College Point has an “extreme lack of transportation,” so the homeless won’t be able to get to work, medical facilities or other services.
“We need to lift the people up at homeless shelters and try to provide them the social services they need,” he said. “They will not get those services here.”
State Senator Tony Avella recalled that when the city previously wanted to put an airport facility at the College Point Corporate Park, 400 residents stopped traffic on the Whitestone Expressway. He wondered aloud if that is a strategy they should take up again.
“Maye we have to do that to say to the city how serious we are,” he said.
Civic leaders and local parents also expressed their opposition to the shelter.
Joe DiBenedetto, president of the District 25 Community Education Council, said he was surprised the city never engaged with the community or consulted with residents. He would have preferred to understand the consequences of putting a homeless shelter near schools.
“For that reason, we oppose what the mayor is doing,” he said.
College Point also received the support of civic leaders from nearby Whitestone. Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers/Civic Association, said now he’s worried about the owner of the site, Dan Levitan, owning any property in Whitestone that could be turned into a shelter.
“We definitely don’t want to be sold out in Whitestone,” Cody said.
“They just want to warehouse the homeless, they don’t care where they put them,” added Alfredo Centola, president of We Love Whitestone Civic Association. “They pretend to care, but they don’t do anything to make sure they get the services they need.”
Levitan, Vallone noted, has already proposed shelters six times in the city and twice in Queens. He is also behind proposals to open shelters in Glendale and Ozone Park, both of which are not likely to happen.
College Point residents are hoping they can organize to come away with the same result.
“He has sold communities out one by one for the sake of profit,” Vallone said. “That is not right.”
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) did not respond to a request for comment by press time.