Hundreds turn out for College Point shelter protest
by Shane Miller
Dec 05, 2018 | 1997 views | 0 0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hundreds of resident gathered on Sunday to protest the city's proposal for a homeless shelter in College Point.

Leading the charge was the College Point Residents Coalition (CPRC), a group formed to fight the city's plan to house 200 men in a building at 20th Avenue and 127th Street operated by nonprofit Westhab.

CPRC committee members Jennifer Shannon said their main concern is the 3,000 children in the five schools nearby.

“We're worried about the safety of College Point,” she said.

Shannon also argued that College Point has done its fair share of housing government services, including a water treatment plant, waste transfer station, the Police Academy and a Post Office sorting facility.

“How much more can we take?” she asked.

At the rally, CPRC members passed around big water bottles asking for donations to retain a lawyer. The group plans to file a lawsuit to try and stop the shelter.

At the rally, Councilman Paul Vallone called out the building's owners, David Levitan and Steve Werner of Brooklyn-based Liberty One Group, who he says originally filed permits for an “office and furniture store,” but decided to turn it into a homeless shelter because it would be more profitable.

“How can you allow two people to make a profit off College Point?” he said.

Homelessness in New York City grew by 115 percent from 1994 to 2014, with a 40 percent jump between 2011 and 2014 alone. There are currently about 60,000 people in the shelter system.

But many of those are housed in hotels and other temporary sites, and the city's plan is to open new borough-based shelters that will allow homeless individuals and families to remain closer to their jobs, schools and support systems.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services said the shelter would have 24-hour security and a 10 p.m. curfew, with those who may have to work later than that given passes to return to the facility.

She added that the city would create a community advisory board for an ongoing dialogue with local residents.

“This high-quality facility will offer 200 men from Queens the opportunity to be sheltered in their home borough, closer to their support networks and communities they called home as they get back on their feet,” said spokesperson Arianna Fishman. “Working together with neighbors and nonprofit service provider Westhab we’re confident that these individuals will be warmly welcomed.

“We will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet,” she added, noting that once the shelter opens, the city will close down two other homeless facilities located in Community Board 7.

But critics of the shelter say the site is, in fact, poorly suited to best serve the needs of the homeless men who will live there.

“There is no hospital here, and there is one bus that, if you're lucky, is on time once a day,” said Alfred Centola, president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association. “How are these people going to get to their jobs or job interviews?”

In March, DHS sent a letter to every community board in the city asking for help identifying suitable sites for shelters. Only Community Board 6 in Brooklyn and Community Board 7 in the Bronx responded with meaningful proposals.

“Homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, so we need every community to come together to address homelessness,” Fishman said.

But Shannon said the issue isn't about compassion, it's about the safety of residents and the quality of life in College Point.

“We have a homeless population that the people of College Point take care of,” she said. “We feed them and some of them have come into our homes. Don't tell us we don't care, because we do.”

A town hall meeting to discuss the shelter is scheduled for Monday, December 17, at 7 p.m. at P.S. 29 at 125-10 23rd Avenue.
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