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Queens Chronicle

City putting homeless into Elmhurst's Pan Am Hotel, despite denial

Top official insisted that wouldn't happen in May 22 MidVille meeting

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Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 9:01 pm | Updated: 11:55 pm, Tue Jun 10, 2014.

The city is moving dozens of homeless families into the old Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, the Queens Chronicle learned June 10, even though a top official had told residents on May 22 that it would not be doing that.

Along with area civic activists who had been concerned with the hotel's future after it closed, City Councilman Danny Dromm was caught by surprise when the homeless families started to be moved in last Friday.

"I am upset that I was only informed that 36 homeless families would be given shelter at the Pan Am hotel as it was actually happening at around 4:45 PM last Friday night," Dromm said in a prepared statement. "My office and our community were given no advance notice."

The councilman added that while he understands and supports the need to house homeless families, the 216-room hotel can hold more families than should be placed in one location, especially when there is another homeless shelter, the Metro Family Residence, just a block away.

Civic activists are furious over the move. Speaking at a May 22 hearing on a plan to use a former factory in Glendale as another shelter, a high-ranking official with the Department of Homeless Services, Lisa Black, had said the Pan Am would not be used as one.

As the Queens Chronicle reported on May 29:

"Some residents brought up a proposal earlier this year to turn the closed Pan American Hotel at 79-99 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, which has since reopened, into a shelter.

"Black confirmed the proposal was denied by DHS, citing the lack of a kitchen and a bathroom in each unit. Residents didn’t take too kindly to Black’s reasoning as some booed and shouted about the relative simplicity of renovating the hotel as opposed to the Glendale site."

The move was also topic No. 1 at Tuesday's meeting of Community Board 4.

A mayoral spokeswoman whose duties include address homeless issues told the Chronicle she would respond to the paper's questions Wednesday morning.

The homeless shelter a block from the Pan Am, the Metro, is one where the Chronicle's readers provide the children with hundreds of toys, articles of clothing and other gifts each year in the paper's Holiday Toy Drive.

Area residents plan to demonstrate outside the Pan Am at 6 p.m. June 17. The rally is being coordinated by the civic group COMET, the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together.

The proposed Glendale shelter would be located on Cooper Avenue, and is opposed by residents and elected officials concerned about overcrowding the area, the potential for contamination in the site's soil and other issues.

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  • nutrichris posted at 12:44 pm on Wed, Jun 11, 2014.

    nutrichris Posts: 4

    Why do people think homeless shelters are the answer? They aren’t. Human warehousing is not a solution. The better solution would be for the City to buy up the properties in foreclosure, make whatever repairs are necessary and house families there. Another alternative is to provide rent vouchers.

    Furthermore, the community was promised a renovated hotel, not a homeless shelter. They have every right to be angry. They already have a homeless shelter a block away at Metro Motel. How much of this is one neighborhood expected to absorb?

  • YouthEmpowerment posted at 11:57 pm on Tue, Jun 10, 2014.

    YouthEmpowerment Posts: 1

    We are talking about housing for homeless families who are in desperate need of shelter, why should there be so much disapproval in this act?

    Providing relief to those who need it should be something the community should support, where will the people go without it? The city doesn't meet the needs of homeless and has not been able to get to the root cause of this problem. Due to this lack the city should put more effort into rent assistance and job readiness for the marginalized.

    Another homeless shelter that serves families, single mothers and children as specified by Black from DHS should be something the Elmhurst community should have.

    Just blocks away from the proposed site is New Life Fellowship, which is already helping the poor & marginalized with relief efforts, restoration and the encouragement of reinvestment, through there food and clothing pantry, health center and homeless ministry. The New Life Community Development Corporation is addressing the essentials that the city should take. So why not have the homeless shelter in this neighborhood that is already meeting the needs of those in despair?

    I'm an active citizen from Elmhurst and support this plan.