If you saw the Spectrum News New York 1 report this week, we’re sure you shook your head in disgust just as much as we did.

According to the City Department of Homeless Services, Queens – by leaps and bounds – hosts the most hotels turned into homeless shelters. There are 40 hotel-shelter sites in the World’s Borough, which of course includes the now infamous Comfort Inn in Ozone Park, home to some 50 homeless families. The closest borough is Brooklyn with 22. Staten Island hosts one shelter, zero clusters, and zero hotel-shelters.

Seems like a fair distribution, no?

And we see the results in south Queens. We all see the increased number of panhandlers on Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards, the vagrants sleeping on benches on major thoroughfares in Howard Beach and Ozone Park.

So against this backdrop, Mayor Bill de Blasio this week unveiled his embattled administration’s “comprehensive borough-based plan to reduce the footprint of New York City’s homeless shelter system and drive down the population of homeless New Yorkers relying on shelter.”

Among the highlights of said plan:

Launch a reimagined shelter strategy that will: Completely eliminate the use of cluster apartment units by the end of 2021 and commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023; reduce the current number of shelter sites by 45 percent; and keep homeless New Yorkers closer to their communities and supports that they need. Additionally, prevention and rehousing initiatives will reduce the current number of homeless New Yorkers in shelter by 2,500 people over five years.

“…eliminate the use of commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023.” Really?? So we have at least six more years of the current conditions to look forward to?

We deserve better.

“Mayor de Blasio set expectations so incredibly low today that you have to wonder if he was even being serious. Over the next four years, he aims to move a mere 2,500 people out of the shelter system. This is an insult to the 60,000 plus New Yorkers who are desperately waiting for permanent housing,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

Aim low, underachieve. We couldn’t agree more.

We deserve better.

“We have heard and read in the past directly from the Mayor’s administration on how it was to curtail the use of hotels as shelter for homeless individuals, only to witness an increase throughout Queens. In spite of all the limited facts and figures, I believe the Mayor was short on explaining how he plans to fund this program, or who will provide the essential services for homeless individuals, or how the community will be included in the site selection for the 90 new shelter sites,” said State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “Instead of addressing the issue of having a sound short- and long-term plan to actually help an individual, either before that person or their family become homeless or subsequently thereafter, with the adequate services and assistance to get them back on their feet, this administration has continued to increasingly fund DHS without any clear, precise plan for credibly dealing with this foreseeable growing homeless crisis. I am hopeful that in the days and weeks following the Mayor’s announcement, we can work together to include the community and elected leaders to supplement this new initiative with details and ideas that truly help those in need.”

Elected leaders. Maybe it’s time we re-evaluate the leadership qualities of the current tenant in Gracie Mansion – which, incidentally, does not double as a homeless-shelter site. Probably because it’s not in Queens.

We deserve better.


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