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Shelter Re-Applies for Contract Despite Unresolved Fire Safety Complaints

By Katie Honan | June 30, 2015 1:43pm | Updated on June 30, 2015 4:44pm
 The open violations at the former Pan Am hotel include issues with the sprinkler system.
The open violations at the former Pan Am hotel include issues with the sprinkler system.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ELMHURST — The operator of a controversial homeless shelter in the former Pan Am hotel has re-applied for a permanent contract despite multiple unresolved fire safety complaints, DNAinfo has learned.

Samaritan Village re-submitted its application on June 12 for a $42.7 million contract to operate the Boulevard Family Shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd., records show.

Comptroller Scott Stringer denied the shelter's original application in May citing major health and safety issues at the shelter, including fire code violations and lack of kitchens inside each unit, which are required by law. 

According to the Department of Buildings records online, two complaints, one for insufficient sprinklers and the other for a lack of fire-stop doors in the building's long hallways, were added to the DOB's site on June 26th. 

There are also open Environmental Control Board violations regarding construction issues from May and January. 

The shelter was the site of an early-morning fire on May 6, which residents said resulted in a "chaotic" evacuation.

A spokeswoman for Samaritan Village did not respond to an email request for comment.

A DHS spokeswoman said the agency has been working with Pan Am to correct its violations, and there are no life-threatening and safety violations at this facility.

"We have made significant progress working closely with our providers and will continue to work together going forward to diligently monitor the conditions of our buildings," she said. "The safety of our residents and operators is our number one priority.”

She did not specify how the agency was working with Pan Am and what specific issues have been resolved.

A spokesman for the DOB said the complaints were called in on June 26 and aren't "substantiated violations at this time." The FDNY did not immediately respond to a multiple requests for comment.

The latest round of DOB complaints are similar to fire safety violations issued to the shelter repeatedly by the Environmental Control Board, most recently on March 10.

The building's owner, Steven Berger under 7900 Development LLC, was hit with $30,000 in fire safety violations as a result of the ECB violations. Those fines have been paid, ECB records show.

The current list of violations kept by the Housing Preservation and Development show complaints about raw sewage accumulation, bed bugs, roaches, lack of running water and no heat throughout the shelter.

It's not clear if the open fire safety violations would impact the comptroller's decision, but a spokesman for the office confirmed the re-application is currently under review.