May 29, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
The State Senate is attempting to change the way homeless shelters are installed in New York City, a process that many in the Queens community believe has been significantly abused over the past year.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed legislation that would require supportive housing facilities or social service centers, including homeless shelters, to notify local community boards and the City Planning Commission of a planned site.
CPC would then approve, modify or deny the shelter, or suggest an alternative location, according to the legislative text.
Possible shelters would then be reviewed by the City Comptroller, as they already do, according to State Sen. Jose Peralta, who co-sponsored the bill.
“We would slow the process down, so there can be more community input,” Peralta said.
According to the Senator, this legislation would also impact the establishment of emergency shelters, which the City Department of Homeless Services used last year to quietly install long term facilities at Elmhurst’s former Pan Am hotel and East Elmhurst’s former Westway Motel, inspiring substantial outrage from western Queens residents and elected officials.
The legislation requires Homeless Services to report to the community even when it establishes emergency shelters. “Currently what happens now: there’s an emergency situation, they hide behind [that],” Peralta said.
Earlier this month, City Comptroller Scott Stringer rejected a proposed contract with shelter provider Samaritan Village to make Pan Am a permanent facility, sending it back to the Mayor for further review.
Peralta said he would expect much of the public comment necessitated by this bill to involve pushback against the planned facilities.
“No one, no community, will immediately jump up and say, ‘yes in my backyard,” Peralta said. “This is more for creating transparency.”
“You would give the community the opportunity to express themselves, and some of the issues can be dealt with,” he continued.
The Department of Homeless Services did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
The bill has been introduced in the State Assembly and has yet to come up for a vote.