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Locals Fear Homeless Shelter Will Open in Hollis Apartment Complex

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 4, 2015 1:29pm | Updated on September 7, 2015 8:31pm
 Six apartment buildings on Hollis Avenue have been undergoing renovations in recent months.
Six apartment buildings on Hollis Avenue have been undergoing renovations in recent months.
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DNAinfo.com/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — Residents and elected officials worry that six long-abandoned apartment buildings on Hollis Avenue in Hollis will be turned into a homeless shelter or transitional housing.

Locals became suspicious after bunk beds, which can be seen through the windows, were placed inside the buildings between 202nd and 204th streets, which have undergone substantial renovations in recent months.

“Who furnishes their apartment building with the same bunk beds in empty rooms?” asked Community Board 12 Chairwoman Adrienne Adams, who has protested with a group of residents in front of the development every Saturday.

Local Councilman Daneek Miller said that the landlord, Rita Stark, who inherited a number of properties in Queens from her late father Fred in the late 1980s, allowed the complex to deteriorate for more than 20 years. 

“For decades, it’s been a blight,” said Miller, adding that over the years the buildings became magnets for crime, attracting squatters and drug users.

When the buildings, which contain 20 apartments each, began undergoing renovations a couple of months ago, “the community finally thought that there was going to be some relief,” Miller said.

The complex, Miller noted, “lay at the heart of our residential community.” There are two schools nearby, a library, several churches and a daycare, he said.

The buildings have been leased last April to The Bluestone Group, a private investment firm, based in downtown Manhattan, according to Miller.

The lease has been signed between Hollis Ave. Stark Properties, LLC (c/o Rita Stark) and Hollis Leasehold LLC (c/o The Bluestone Group).  

Miller, who obtained a copy of the 99-year lease from the Department of Finance, said he had tried to contact the group for months to find out what its plans for the complex are, but his phone calls have been ignored.

In July, he and state Senator Leroy Comrie went unannounced to The Bluestone Group’s office. But even during that meeting, Miller said, the company was not able to provide any details regarding the development, he said.

A representative for the company denied Friday morning that the group has any "affiliation with the development" and Stark Properties declined to comment on the issue.

In August, Miller and Comrie also met with representatives from the Mayor’s office and presented them 700 petitions Miller received from local residents on the issue, the councilman said.

The city's Department of Homeless Services said in an email that it has no plans to use this site at this time.

But locals remain skeptical.

Ten out of 22 homeless shelters in Queens are located within Community Board 12, which covers Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, according to the DHS.

In December last year, CB12 passed a resolution requesting a moratorium on building or expanding homeless shelters in the area, which Adams said has been one of 10 districts in the city disproportionately affected by a large number of shelters.

"Any type of homeless shelter is not a desired option for this community," Adams said, adding that locals would like the complex to be turned into affordable housing or used as a community center.