By State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr.
Once again, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Department of Homeless Services have come into Queens with a flawed plan for housing homeless individuals in our community without gaining any input from the people who live there.
This time DHS has targeted the former Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church located at 85-15 101st Avenue in Ozone Park. Work is already underway to transform this space to house 113 men with mental disabilities by winter 2018. I do not support this proposal by the Mayor.
While I understand that there is currently a homeless crisis facing our city, I do not believe that because of the Mayor’s inability to credibly address the homeless issue, middle class communities should be negatively affected by having large population shelters placed without input. Where are the impact statements? Where are the reports showing the effect on our schools or public safety? My colleagues in government and I — along with residents of Ozone Park — will not accept a shelter housing more than 100 mentally ill men to be built in this community, given the location’s proximity to five neighborhood schools and high population of children under the age of 18 who live near the proposed shelter.
Another reason why I stand opposed to this shelter location is that there is little to no information on how the city plans to help these individuals. The administration gives limited information as to what services or programs will be made available to the men to transition them out of the homeless shelter system. If the population at the shelter is to be mentally ill men, there must be constant on-site help for them, as well as security at all times to help protect not only the individuals there, but the Ozone Park neighborhood as well. The burden on the 102nd Police Precinct could have an impact on the surrounding communities.
I have stated my opposition to this site for a shelter both publically and privately to DHS. As a result of a meeting that DHS had with the local elected officials, the 102nd Pct. and Community Board 9, the agency has given us 30 days to find a new alternative location for this proposed shelter to house the 113 men. Those 30 days end on August 5, so I am hopeful that by working together as a community, we can find a suitable replacement site for these individuals.
Over the years, the Mayor’s office has been made aware of my suggestions for ways to assist the homeless without creating frustration and animosity in our communities. Where is the affordable housing that was proposed by the Mayor and to be built? The city has vacant property to utilize for permanent or temporary housing to help the homeless. The city can also consider using smaller sites for population sizes that better acclimate into a community. There are other solutions to address the homeless crisis and assist individuals in need, but until the Mayor decides to work with us who want to help, well before the call to my office dictating a site in the community, the opposition to inappropriate sites will continue.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo represents New York’s 15th District, which includes Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside and The Rockaways.