Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza
Hundreds of area residents turned out to the Community Board 9 meeting on Tuesday evening at Majestic Marquise catering hall to voice their opposition to the shelter site.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Hundreds of irate Ozone Park residents on Tuesday emphatically voiced their opposition to the City’s plan to establish a homeless shelter on 101st Avenue later this year.
On fairly short notice they packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, inside the Majestic Marquise catering hall—just a pebble’s skip from the proposed shelter site—to tell the members of Community Board 9 that such a facility was not welcome in their backyard.
“This particular homeless shelter is located in the wrong area,” said Sam Esposito, an Ozone Park native, former member of CB 9, and one of the organizers of Tuesday evening’s rally.
In an email obtained by The Forum, a City official indicated that the Department of Homeless Services has already notified area elected officials and the community board that “we’re opening a new shelter [at] 85-15 101st Avenue, Ozone Park, for 113 single adult males with mental illness.”
This did not sit well with said elected officials.
“I am deeply disturbed by the City’s decision to place a men’s shelter in the heart of Ozone Park,” fumed City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “Mayor de Blasio has failed to alleviate the chronic homelessness epidemic facing our city. Instead of addressing the root causes of poverty and a lack of affordable housing, the administration is frantically trying to construct shelters in residential neighborhoods. This strategy is neither helpful to those who have fallen on hard times, nor is it in the best interest of the local community. The proposed location on 101st Avenue is completely inappropriate for people with mental health issues. I will be working with my colleagues in government to determine if a more suitable population can be sheltered there. Our community deserves better.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a lifelong Ozone Park resident, blasted de Blasio’s “ill-conceived plan” and “$2 billion worth of failed homeless policies.”
“I intend to urge the Mayor’s Office to reconsider this plan for a number of valid reasons, one being its unacceptable large population of mentally disabled males, in such close proximity to five schools,” the senator said.
On Tuesday, the restless crowd roared as Esposito ripped the City for several minutes for a homeless crisis agenda that, he said, will “change Ozone Park forever.”
“This is not about hate…it’s not about prejudice…it’s not about not caring,” he noted. “It’s about common sense, safety, and concerns for our children. This is about the quality of life that is about to be turned upside-down like this community has never seen. It’s about the City’s lack of respect. It’s about the City lying to us time and time again. Nothing the City said can be believed anymore.”
Esposito said that he believes that, should the City ignore the cries of its residents and open the shelter doors “in late winter,” as is proposed in the email, it “will ultimately destroy Ozone Park over time.”
“In the end,” he added, “we’re going to have a lot of I-told-you-so’s.”