Oct. 31, 2014 By Michael Florio
The Westway Motor Inn, which was converted into a full-time homeless shelter in July, was at the center of some heated discussion at this month’s 114th Police Precinct meeting on Tuesday.
Several residents claimed that there had been an uptick in crime near the 71-11 Astoria Blvd. shelter and that the quality of life for nearby residents is on the decline.
However, Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, the commanding officer of the 114th, refuted these claims.
“We don’t see a ton of crime happening over there,” Maloney said. “We don’t see an increase in robberies, car break-ins, or drug use there.”
However, one woman claimed that her friend’s daughter was attacked near the Westway Motor Inn. The alleged victim did not report it to the police.
Maloney said that he was aware that the community was concerned when it first learned that the Westway Motor Inn had been turned into a full-time shelter. Nevertheless, he said, there are no more complaints in that part of the precinct than elsewhere.
Maloney said that if crime is taking place and nobody is reporting it then it is not helping residents or the police.
Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, was in attendance and stated that the problem could be that people are afraid to report what is going on.
“People are afraid,” she said. “You got a lot of teenagers and young kids there now.”
Maloney said that if residents are afraid to call the police then they can call the precinct’s community affairs department and report it anonymously.
One long-time Astoria resident, George Pefanis, claimed that the shelter has downgraded his quality of life.
Pefanis, who lives in Ditmars, said that a man from the shelter approached him aggressively one time shouting “What’s good?” and asked him for money and cigarettes. He said that he called the police about the incident but since it wasn’t a crime, no report was made.
He claimed that he had witnessed residents of the shelter urinating in public. He also claimed that the residents had intimidated his pregnant wife as well as his daughter.
“Forget about crime, what about the quality of life?” he asked. “I love this neighborhood and I don’t want to feel like I am living in a ghetto.”
Pefanis said the police are not seeing what is going on near the shelter—focusing too much on statistics.
Maloney responded by saying any quality of life issue, such as public urination, should be reported.
“Every time you call 911, I will get a report,” Maloney said. “It is not all about stats. I look at every single 911 and 311 call that is generated around that area.”
“If there is a location that has a lot of reports we will address it,” Maloney added. “If we see several calls at one location we will send a conditions team over and it’ll turn into an enforcement action.”
Poveromo hosted a town hall meeting about the shelter in July, which drew hundreds of residents who opposed to it. She said that a second town hall meeting will be hosted “shortly.”