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City Eyes Hollis Complex for Homeless Veteran Housing Despite Protests

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 13, 2015 5:21pm
 Six apartment buildings on Hollis Avenue could become housing for homeless veterans.
Six apartment buildings on Hollis Avenue could become housing for homeless veterans.
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DNAinfo.com/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — Six long-abandoned apartment buildings on Hollis Avenue could become affordable housing for homeless veterans despite locals protests, officials said.

“We are working on making this permanent affordable housing for veterans as part of the national effort to end homelessness for veterans,” said a spokeswoman for the Human Resources Administration in an email.

The spokeswoman did not elaborate on the proposal, which was first reported by the Times Ledger, and did not say how many people would live in the complex or when it would open.

The Obama administration has been pushing to end homelessness among U.S. veterans nationwide since 2010, and in his State of the City speech earlier this year Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to reach that goal in New York City by the end of 2015. 

The number of veterans who are homeless or living in shelters dropped to 990 from 1,645 in 2014, according to the city.

But locals, who for several months have been holding protests in front of the Hollis development, which is located between 202nd and 204th streets and has approximately 120 units, are upset that the administration did not discuss the plan with the community.

“We need our civic, faith-based and community leaders to stand with us to send a loud and clear message that the reported proposal for the property will have a negative impact and we as a community will not be silent about our displeasure,” state Sen. Leroy Comrie wrote in an email sent out to residents last Saturday. “We are calling on the City to respect the voices of our community.”

The property, which belongs to Rita Stark, have been deteriorating for more than 20 years, attracting squatters and drug users. But in April the buildings were leased to The Bluestone Group, a private investment firm, based in downtown Manhattan, according to local elected officials.

Since then, the property has undergone substantial renovations. Bunk beds, which can be seen through the windows, were placed inside.

“There is no question that veterans, seniors, the homeless and those with mental health issues and other challenges desperately need permanent affordable housing, along with the requisite services that will help them to become and remain functional and self-sustaining,” Comrie said in the message. “However, community input must be factored into the equation when making the determination of location and placement of facilities.”

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

Last December, CB12 passed a resolution requesting a moratorium on building or expanding homeless shelters in the area.

Sources said that the new facility would actually house vets who would have to sign a lease and pay rent in order to live in the complex, but details are still being discussed.

Local Councilman Daneek Miller, who has been pushing for more affordable housing in the neighborhood, said that he continues to discuss the issue with the de Blasio administration as to how the complex would be managed, what services it would provide and who would actually live there.

“We continue to dialogue with the Mayor and his administration to ensure that community voices are respected with regards to a potential development on Hollis Avenue,” Miller said in an email. “We have worked for a long time to develop a strong voice for our community, particularly on this issue, and it is vital that the administration hear out this message.”

The Bluestone Group did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.