Feb. 4, 2015 By Michael Florio
Local politicians are speaking out against a convicted child molester who has recently moved to the Westway Motel, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd.
James Bryant, 49, has been living in a shelter in the Bronx since being released from prison last year after serving 10-years for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl. He is listed as a level-two sex offender for his crime, which took place in Texas in 2003.
“It is abhorrent to have a registered sex offender, who was convicted of a heinous crime against a seven-year-old, living in our community at a facility meant to serve women and children,” said Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who has filed a lawsuit against the city in regards to the placement of this shelter.
“This is either a complete lack of oversight or a willful attempt to pull the wool over our eyes by quietly shifting this danger from one community to the next,” Simotas added.
Simotas is not alone in her outrage.
“I am alarmed at the recent news that a convicted child molester has been placed at the Westway facility after we were assured that location was meant to house families with children,” said Senator Gianaris.
Gianaris said that the lack of information, and voice in the process, by both the residents and politicians only validates why they were against it in the first place.
Councilman Costa Constantinides agrees with Gianaris, that they have had no say in the process. The Department of Homeless Services have been housing 121-families since July on a permanent basis, but are in the process of turning it into a permanent shelter.
“Since the shelter opened last year, the community and local elected officials have had no voice in the process,” he said.
Housing a convicted sex offender meets the fears of many Astoria residents.
“Bringing a sex offender to our streets unbeknownst to nearby residents is downright disturbing. The City should immediately reconsider its plans for this location in light of this news,” Gianaris said.
Constantinides is putting the blame on the Department of Homeless Services.
“The Department of Homeless Services should not permit a situation like this. This is one of the many deep concerns that I have had with the process of opening an emergency homeless shelter at the Westway Motel,” he said.
Constantinides believes that this is not only wrong for those in the Astoria community, but also for those families living within the shelter.
“The families in need who are living at the Westway deserve more than just a roof over their head – they deserve a safe place to live. I urge DHS to act swiftly and ensure that the families’ safety is a top priority.”
DHS would not comment on the case, stating that it has a confidentiality agreement with the individuals at the shelter.