State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said despite rumblings that the Westway Motel could become a full-time shelter for homeless families, the city Department of Homeless Services decided not to consider it last week.
“The city has to stop bringing this up as a possibility,” Simotas said.
The Westway Motel, at 71-11 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst, has been used as a transitional, overnight housing facility for families. On multiple occasions, DHS has tried to expand the use of the motel as a shelter.
From 2006-07, the department used some of the rooms as permanent shelters and in 2010 the department took some motel rooms as a temporary housing facility for single men.
In both instances, expanded use of the shelter drew protests from elected officials and community members.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond said the department had no plans to change Westway’s use, at least for now.
“It’s clear that when it comes to the Westway, it’s never over,” Vallone said.
Simotas said she believed DHS continues to revive the issue because New York City is short on locations to place homeless families.
But she said Westway would not be an appropriate location to house 100 additional families. She said there is little public transportation in the area — only the Q19 and M60 buses pass down that part of Astoria Boulevard — and the schools in the area are full.
“This is not the appropriate place to put a facility to house 100 additional families,” she said.
United Community Civic Association President Rosemarie Poveromo also said she did not think it was appropriate for children to be kept in one-room dwellings.
“It’s wrong for the children. It’s wrong for the community,” Poveromo said.
The assemblywoman said she was also frustrated the department did not present the idea to the community first.
“You can’t really do that before you look at what impact it has on the surrounding area,” she said.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said in a statement he was glad the department listened to the representatives of the surrounding neighborhood.
“There are better options both for the community and for those New Yorkers who are in need of assistance,” he said.
But Simotas said she believed the proposal to expand the use of the motel for the homeless would come up again.
“I’m very pleased with the resolution thus far, but I’ll continue to monitor the situation,” she said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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