[Epoch Times July 11, 2014 Reuters (Epoch Times New York reporter Wei Zhen)
The Pan American Hotel, located in Elmhurst, Queens, has been converted into a homeless shelter. After the protest on June 17, where more than 1000 people participated, and at the public hearing held on June 30th, where the residents protested again. Tonight (July 10), community activists gathered at Elmhurst’s Starry Bakery & Café to organize a discussion on the current developments and solutions.
The President of the Elmhurst Block Association (ELMBA), and coordinator of the event, Bob Wong, said that after the public hearing on June 30th, there have not been any positive results, rather, the converted Pan American hotel is speeding up the process of moving more homeless into the shelter. More than 20 families move in every day; next week an estimate of 200 households will occupy the shelter and the number of residents will surpass 600.
He strongly stressed that the community has compassion and cares for the homeless; "We do not discriminate nor oppose the arrival of new homeless residents. We hope to live in harmony with them. However, we are against the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Pan Am hotel owners and Samaritan Village for not giving us prior communication and their improper practices. In May, the city said they would not convert the Pan Am hotel into a homeless shelter. And in June, without notifying the community, they move in the homeless. They completely lied to us!"
Mr. Wong said that on the 4th of next month (August), he plans to hold another protest at Elmhurst Hospital, and afterward if possible, organize another larger protest at City Hall.
Mr. Fong, manager of Starry bakery, whose store has been open for more than a year, indicated that recently in the last two months a lot of bad things have happened. There are homeless people going into the store asking for bread, using the bathroom, and even harassing his customers, negatively impacting his business. Many guests now have begun to complain; they are not willing to come to the store to buy things, or drink coffee. The store's female employees are also feeling unsafe; when the store closes at 8:30pm they are very nervous and scared walking home.
Mr. Ma Hui Wen, a long time resident of Elmhurst, who lives near the former Pan Am Hotel, is baffled. He said that business was not bad at the Pan American hotel. He had a friend who tried to book a room at the hotel but was unsuccessful. After the conversion, there is no more luxury hotel in the neighborhood. He hopes the hotel can be restored back to its former glory.