In October of 2018, a local resident of College Point was made aware
that the City of New York and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS)
approved a 200 all-male transitional homeless shelter at 127-03 20th
Avenue, College Point, NY 11356, which is currently an industrial
warehouse. According to representatives from DHS, this decision was made
with no input from Community Board 7 or our local civic group. In fact,
Jackie Bray of DHS said that our Councilman, Community Board 7, and
local civic group did not have to be a part of the conversation at all
and DHS was well within their legal rights. Ms. Bray also stated that
DHS and the city of New York does not have to tell a community about
this decision until 30 days before a facility opens.
On November 28th, hundreds of people showed up at
Poppenhusen Institute in College Point for the local Civic /Taxpayers
Association meeting looking for answers. 180 people were allowed inside
for the meeting, while others were turned away at the door. About 100 of
College Point’s local residents headed to the We Love Whitestone civic
meeting to wait for Councilman Vallone to arrive from the College Point
meeting. Others watched the meeting live on Facebook. During this
meeting, concerned local citizens were informed by DHS that this shelter
would be opening in September of 2019. DHS also stated that the
facility would be a transitional shelter which means it would home to
men returning from prison and drug rehabilitation facilities.
Local residents felt blindsided by the decision and could not believe they were left out of such an important conversation. Many were very concerned and had many questions for DHS at the meeting. The community was filled with fear and anxiety of the unknown. The meeting was consumed by furious questions and very insensitive answers. The women that represented DHS were very unprofessional and it is hard to believe that this is the face of DHS at community meetings about such a sensitive topic. The Queens Borough Director of DHS, Amanda Nasner stood in a corner eating a salad, talking to a member of CB7, and she actually laughed at the statements from concerned local residents. Jackie Bray changed her shoes on stage while talking to the community. This all went on while local residents felt lied to, tricked, and treated like their concerns didn’t count.
A few days prior to the civic meeting, the CP Residents’ Coalition, INC Committee was formed and a Facebook group called A Better College Point was created.
Both groups have come together and are trying to piece together
everything that has happened over the past few months. Together we are a
group of passionate, decent and hardworking local residents from
diverse ethnicities and from all walks of life. We organized a protest
outside the proposed site on Sunday, December 2, 2018. It was the
biggest protest rally at the site since the community found out what was
going on. Our only agenda is to reverse the city’s decision to
warehouse 200 men in a neighborhood that cannot support a shelter.
Almost two thousand supporters agreed with our passion and showed up to
join us in a protest against the transitional shelter.
We want to be very clear, this is not a NIMBY cause. Our community
has many homeless people living here on our streets. Many members of the
community, churches, and local businesses help these people all the
time. We helped 7 families that were left homeless due to a very bad
fire. We organized fundraisers, got donations of furniture and cash to
help them get back on their feet. We are a community of caring people.
However, College Point is not the place for any shelter. DHS stated,
they are “taking local people and placing them in shelters closer to
their support networks.” However, in the same breath they told us they
do not know who they will place in the shelter. College Point is on the
most northern tip of Queens and couldn’t be more out of the way for
anyone that has to rely on public transportation. We have 3 buses that
take residents in and out of College Point daily on a very unreliable
schedule. We have two more bus lines that don’t even run daily and we do
not have any train service either. Our town is congested and
overcrowded, the streets are falling apart and cannot even support the
local residents. Our schools are bursting at the seams and have to add
on extensions every couple of years. There are no support services in
College Point, we don’t even have a primary care doctor.
How is this helping these men that are “experiencing homelessness?”
It is actually making their lives more difficult and setting them up to
fail. Are DHS and the city helping people or putting a band-aid on a
very bad problem that exists in our city and our country? All the
research out there clearly states that homeless shelters do not work and
affordable housing is the solution. How is spending hard earned tax
dollars at the price tag of $2000.00 – $4000.00 per person a month
financially responsible? An affordable apartment is more humane,
fiscally responsible, and 100% more effective. Help these men, don’t
hide them at the most northern tip of Queens.
The city and DHS do not care about these men “experiencing homelessness.” The city and DHS do not care about the communities impacted by the horrible decisions made behind closed doors. These facts are clear to everyone else!
We are here to make a loud and firm statement on the homeless shelter project in College Point and the City’s Homeless policy as a whole:
- Substantial research has been done on homeless shelters, the statistics prove the city’s initiative is not working.
- The location of the homeless shelter in College Point chosen by DHS for over 200 single men is obviously nothing more than the warehousing of people “experiencing homelessness.” The facts speak for themselves: no hospital, limited public transportation, no rehabs, no jobs, no doctors, no close support system, and a very insufficient infrastructure. Don’t homeless people deserve better? We think so!
- Putting a shelter of this kind in the middle of two grammar schools, a middle school, a pre-k school, and an all-girl high school is not the solution.
- We are willing to sit down with City and DHS officials to address the controversy and work out a solution which will benefit everyone.
- If the DHS and the city do not want to come to the table, then we will then meet them in court.