Three northeast Queens lawmakers are calling for more transparency and better communication from the Department of Homeless Services after learning that the agency is transferring 96 residents of a Bronx men’s homeless shelter into a College Point hotel.
State Senator John Liu, City Councilman Paul Vallone and Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal released a joint statement after learning of the transfer that is sending the Bronx residents to the Fairfield Hotel at 28-66 College Point Blvd.
A spokesperson for Vallone’s office said that is the lawmakers’ understanding that DHS began transferring the residents Friday, June 12.
In their statement, the lawmakers said DHS promised that the move is a “temporary arrangement.”
The transfer comes as DHS continues its effort to relocate non-symptomatic and non-asymptomatic homeless individuals from congregate shelters to low-density settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DSS spokesperson Isaac McGinn said that while the agency cannot confirm specific locations that they may be using to provide temporary shelter where social service recipients are residing because the information is protected by NYS Social Services Law, the use of commercial hotels is “an essential part of our strategies for protecting the New Yorkers who we serve.”
“At DSS, we’re confident that our strategies for combatting COVID-19 and protecting the 60,000-plus New Yorkers we serve on any given night have effectively flattened our curve, which has closely tracked citywide trends,” McGinn said.
McGinn said that approximately 12,000 shelter residents have been relocated to commercial hotel settings and that DSS has been working with the city’s Department of Health and NYC Health + Hospitals to provide care to its most vulnerable clients, including seniors and single adults.
“We will continue to pursue these strategies, including moving up to 1,000 additional clients each week as needed, because it is best for our clients, redoubling our efforts and evolving with this situation to ensure we’re supporting our clients in all that we do,” he said.
But Vallone, Liu and Rosenthal criticized the agency for a “lack of communication and transparency” regarding its plans during the pandemic.
“In a pattern of rushed decision making, DHS just weeks ago relocated homeless women from the College Point shelter on 20th Avenue to a hotel in a different neighborhood. Uprooting the neighborhood’s current residents and transferring homeless individuals across boroughs during a pandemic is an irresponsible policy,” the lawmakers said. “This lack of foresight and planning compromises the health of not only our vulnerable populations, but also of staff and service providers.”
The trio said that they will continue to be in communication with 109th Precinct, which is already aware of the transfer.