Among the Wednesday protest signs in front of the hotel which the city says it plans to turn into a homeless shelter, were a few which called for a boycott of Holiday Inn Hotels nationwide. “If they are going to turn their Holiday Inn Hotels into shelters we should not help them do that,” said one man in the crowd last night. “We already know that a handful of rooms in dozens of hotels around Maspeth and surrounding areas are being reserved by the city of New York for homeless families, and those situations prove to have little impact in the neighborhood,” said Michael LoCascio, one of the leaders of the the protest. “But turning the entire hotel into a city shelter makes an indelible impact.”
We received confirmed sourced reports that ten rooms at the Grand Motor Inn and a few rooms at the Comfort Inn, as well as five at this Holiday Inn are being used by homeless families. DHS has not yet confirmed this but Ben Fang, a community editor for the Queens Ledger says he is posting a piece later today about a communication from the Holiday Inn Hotel in which they deny the use of any rooms by homeless. However LoCascio says that one man who is staying at the Holiday Inn Express told him that he is staying there with his 96-year-old mother who is on a ventilator and the city is guaranteeing payment for the room. “This same guy comes out of the hotel every night and yells at the protesters,” LoCascio said.
Meanwhile, the Community Board will still hold its public hearing on August 31st.
In a conversation exclusively with the Maspeth Blog Tuesday, August 16th, Assemblywoman Marge Markey confirmed that she spoke to city Comptroller Scott Stringer about not letting the mayor use the “homeless emergency declaration” to push through using the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express as a homeless shelter – and she has no doubt that the comptroller is on our side.
“They must go through a review process,” she said, “and now since the comptroller is on our side, the city should pay attention.”
Markey says she spoke with him again Monday and also planned a meeting to bring together area representatives with him about the plan and to review any contract to use this shelter.
“For all the reasons that were mentioned at the Thursday night Town Hall meeting, and more,” Markey said, “ a shelter there is a bad idea.”
We spoke with the office of the comptroller on the shelter issue Wednesday morning and although they can’t reject something they haven’t seen yet, Stringer did say, “Siting a shelter without consulting the community does a disservice to clients and local residents.”
Stringer also confirmed to us that he will meet with civics and local elected officials in Maspeth to ensure that everyone is heard and has a seat at the table.
Meanwhile, Markey said she feels it is important to show that every public official in this area is opposed to this project. “They should go through a process,” she said on Tuesday afternoon, after explaining how she “of course” intended to come to the Thursday Maspeth Town Hall meeting at Martin Luther School. While she was on her way, “a family emergency emerged,” she said, and she had to take care of it personally. “I had three staff members at the meeting and we are ‘on it.'”
Markey, who said she has been using all her resources to stop this hotel from being used as a shelter, is known to those familiar with her to be soft spoken and humble about her accomplishments in the State Legislature and in the neighborhood. She has been in the Assembly since 1998. She took some boisterous criticism from some loud attendees at the meeting Thursday night – as did all the elected officials before Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley started to yell quite pointedly at HRA Commissioner Steven Banks. We saw a side of Crowley that many had never seen before. “Now that’s a passion we’ve never seen from her,” said one man at the meeting after Crowley spoke.
One of the questions Markey says she will ask Stringer is about the numbers. “What were the circumstances used for those people to use Maspeth as their last address? Were they burned out of their homes? Did the family throw them out?” she said.
Then, according to Markey, she is going to be involved in a meeting with the mayor.
When we asked her about the contradiction to the amount of homeless that the commissioner says come from Maspeth, Markey said the numbers are not as important as what the circumstances were. “It’s not relevant ‘who’ those people are. I expect real answers to the question about what were the circumstances behind them being homeless. Not who it is but what?” she said.
Readers should note that the comptroller rejected the Pan Am Hotel. It’s still a shelter.