Over six months ago, the Department of Homeless Services announced that a former industrial warehouse at 127-03 20th Avenue would be converted into an all-male transitional shelter for 200 homeless individuals
It is expected to open in September.
Since the announcement, College Point residents have been relentless in their fight against the proposal, including organizing multiple large rallies since the proposal was first made public.
State Senator John Liu commended the crowd for making the long trek, saying,
“This sends a very strong message that people care about the community,” said State Senator John Liu. “While we understand that there is a homeless problem in the City of New York, there are proper places to put shelters and there are places where shelters do not belong.
“They certainly do not belong in the middle of six schools where thousands of our children are going to school,” he added.
The proximity of several schools near the shelter was a main theme of the protest.
“There’s an all-girls school a couple of blocks away from this homeless shelter. It’s going to be a transitional shelter, which means that some of the residents are coming out of Rikers Island,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. “We don’t need to have these individuals walking the streets when our children are out there.”
Protesters also argued that College Point is an unfair location for the homeless themselves, since there is no hospital in the community and it is served by only two bus lines, making access to employment and other services difficult for those living in the shelter.
“We are not against homeless people,” said Mike Niebauer, president of the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association. “We are against warehousing people without positive solutions. They are just getting a cot and a locker, no comprehensive support services.”
Liu acknowledged the complexity of the situation, saying “City Hall’s problem is they have 40,000 people who are homeless,” but he offered some hope.
“If we have unity, we can get the best result for the community,” he said. “We need to make sure City Hall understands we have families here. We are going to be very much on top of what their plans are, and we say no to this location.”
Cody said the neighborhood is already negatively impacted by hosting other city services, such as police two pounds and waste transfer stations.
“College Point is continually getting dumped on,” he said. “It’s not fair.”