Wills: DHS Reneged on Pledge to Relocate Shelter Sex Offenders

Wills: DHS Reneged on Pledge to Relocate Shelter Sex Offenders

PHOTO:  City Councilman Ruben Wills this week called out the city Department of Homeless Services for not honoring its pledge to transfer all sex offenders from the Skyway Shelter in South Ozone Park.  Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) this week blasted the Department of Homeless Services after his office discovered that the overall number of sex offenders at a South Ozone Park men’s shelter has not decreased since last month when Wills announced that the facility was not compliant with state residency restrictions.

Wills’ office last month revealed that the actual distance between nearby PS/MS 124 and Skyway Men’s Shelter is less than 1,000 feet. State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision determined the shelter was not in compliance with State restrictions, and DHS told The Forum “We are working to transfer those residents to sites that are compliant.”

Residents on the upper floors of the South Conduit Avenue shelter have an unobstructed view of the school building and yard.

On Tuesday, Wills announced that in the weeks that followed only four of the shelter’s 52 sex offenders were relocated from Skyway to other facilities; whereas an equal number of newly placed sex offenders took up residence at the shelter in that same period, including two with special conditions restricting unsupervised contact with young children.

“For weeks, my office had been monitoring the status of Skyway’s sex offenders,” Wills said. “After learning that there had been no measurable decrease in the number present there, and new offenders were also located at the facility recently, I conveyed the community’s disappointment to DHS; and urged it to make good on its earlier commitment to relocate them. Today, I received word from DHS that it will aggressively ramp up its efforts to remove them from that site, and the city will be conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the process by which it balances its obligation to provide shelter to these individuals and preserve public safety; while ensuring it adheres to State guidelines. We will be watching closely in the days ahead to see if there is actual progress on this front.”

DHS spokeswoman Nicole Cueto said, “We are working aggressively to secure appropriate shelter placements for these residents. The facility continues to have increased security, including seven guards on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and security transports clients to and from the subway.”

Since its 2011 conversion to a single men’s shelter from a family facility, DHS has been placing registered Level 2 and 3 sex offenders at Skyway.

“There’s no way you can say this is appropriate,” Wills said last month. “The department must expedite the removal of all sex offenders who currently reside there, and I urge it to also reassess the viability of the process by which it rapidly converts similar facilities to permanent shelters, from which this nightmarish ordeal derived.”

Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton added that CB 10 “strongly objects to the continuing placement of registered sex offenders at the Skyway Men’s Shelter. We join with Councilman Wills in calling on the Department of Homeless Services to cease this practice.”

By Michael V. Cusenza

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