Since the last issue of this newsletter, a rookie organization called the Queens Alliance announced its intention to open a homeless shelter for 29 adults on 58th Avenue in Elmhurst, on a quiet block behind the now-defunct St. John’s Queens Hospital. Contrary to published reports, the issues that the community has with this plan have nothing to do with “AIDS phobia” as hinted at by the press. The problems are as follows:
- The Queens Alliance has never run a shelter before. Try searching the internet for information about this organization and see what you come up with.
- To file with the IRS, the Queens Alliance used an address that hundreds of other shell corporations use. They have a mailbox on Lee Avenue in Brooklyn, but they deceivingly call their mailbox number “suite 712”. Their alternate address is the address of the house they haven’t moved into yet.
- The Queens Alliance told the residents of 58th Avenue that this facility will house homeless drug addicts and alcoholics who may or may not be referred for treatment. They explicitly stated that their clients have the right to refuse rehab. Homeless drug addicts and alcoholics generally have lengthy arrest records and cause problems such as selling drugs and committing crimes to get money to buy more drugs and alcohol. This is unacceptable in a community full of children.
- Community Board 4 already has the most community facilities of any district in the borough. In fact, there already exists a facility on the block that houses adults with mental issues. At least 3 criminal incidents have thus far been traced to this home.
So the residents protested, as would be expected when the city decides they are going to open an unwelcome facility in the middle of a residential block. Soon after the protest, the City’s Human Resources Administration quietly leaked out that their contract with the Queens Alliance was cancelled due to the organization “breaching their clients’ confidentiality.” However, they made it clear that they could reapply for a contract in the future.
The Queens Alliance has vowed to reapply and house clients at the facility on 58th Avenue. They signed a 10-year lease with the owner as the contracts with the city for these facilities are generally made for 9 years.
Linda Lam, President of the 58th Avenue Block Association, organized a meeting with HRA Commissioner Robert Doar and members of his staff, Jennifer Manley, Queens Director of the Mayor's Community Affairs Unit, Vicky Morales from Council Member Melinda Katz's office and me on August 31, 2009 at HRA headquarters in Manhattan. The Commissioner's staff stated that they have no further memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the Queens Alliance or any other group for 86-18
58th Avenue. However, they did state that the Queens Alliance would not necessarily be prohibited from reapplying for an MOU for that location in the future. The Queens Alliance may also sublease the facility to another group or organization in order to cover their rent.
It was suggested by the mayor’s office that the 58th Avenue Block Association enter into a dialogue with the Queens Alliance and help them find a tenant for the facility which would be agreeable to all parties involved, such as a day care center. Hopefully before her tenure as Council Member is complete, Melinda Katz will work with them to bring this saga to an amicable resolution.
Videos of the Elmhurst homeless shelter rally held July 11, 2009, may be found here.