Feb. 5, 2015 By Michael Florio
Two days after it was revealed that a sex offender was living at the Westway housing shelter, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) issued a statement yesterday saying that it is now reviewing its policy when it comes to housing sex offenders.
A DHS spokesperson released the following statement last night.
“DHS takes safety concerns very seriously,” the agency said, adding that it is “currently reviewing policies with regard to sex offenders in the families with children system.”
The issue of sex offenders living in family shelters has already come to the attention of the state senate. A bill passed in the Senate on January 26 that would prohibit– if it were to become law– level two and three sex offenders from living in temporary emergency housing and homeless shelters used to house families with children.
“Allowing high-level sex offenders to stay in family shelters where vulnerable women and children are trying to get back on their feet is not only troublesome but dangerous,” said state Senator Jeff Klein who sponsored the bill. “With more than 60,000 homeless New Yorkers sleeping in New York City shelters and thousands more out on the street, we need to take every measure to protect those in our care.”
Yesterday’s DHS statement comes the same day that posters began to circulate calling for a peaceful protest that seeks to ouster James Bryant, a level 2 sex offender, from the family shelter. The protest is supposed to take place this Saturday in front of the Westway Motel, located on Astoria Blvd (btwn. 71st and 72nd Street), at 10 am.
The Astoria Post has not been able to locate the organizers and confirm the protest.
Bryant was moved to the Westway recently after living in a Bronx shelter since he was released from prison last year–after serving 10-years for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl.
The protest poster calls for “the immediate removal of James Bryant from Westway Motel.”
The poster states that the DHS has endangered the safety of the community by housing him there.
Local politicians are aware of the posters and are searching for more information.
State Senator Mike Gianaris said there is not enough information yet on the protest to determine if he will be attending.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Councilman Costa Constantinides are also finding out further details before they commit to attending.