Jan. 6, 2015 By Michael Florio
Residents will get their say at a public hearing next week about the Department of Homeless Services’ plan to turn the Westway Motel on Astoria Blvd into a permanent homeless shelter.
The Department of Homeless Services’ plan to convert the shelter into a permanent facility comes six months after the agency unexpectedly turned the hotel into a 121-family facility for those needing long-term shelter. The agency was only given a six month contract to offer shelter for 121 families in this fashion under an ‘emergency contract’ with the city.
Westway, located at 71-11 Astoria Blvd, has traditionally provided the homeless with shelter for one night only—and that has mainly been when other city shelters were beyond capacity.
The city, however, must approve the Westway ‘contract’ before it becomes a permanent facility. As part of the process, the city is required to hold a public hearing.
The public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15 at 10 am, at 125 Worth Street. The public is encouraged to attend and is free to give testimony.
The Comptroller’s office will then review the permanent ‘contract’ and then render a decision, according to a DHS spokesperson.
The DHS stated in an e-mail today that there is a shortage of space for the homeless and that the facility is needed as homelessness increases.
In July, when DHS converted the facility into a long-term shelter for families, several elected officials expressed their outrage about the lack of notification about the shelter and were uncertain as to whether it would overwhelm nearby schools.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who has publicly expressed her strong stand against the shelter since July, is expected to release a statement on the matter later in the week.
Councilman Costa Constantinides would not comment on the issue.